Now You See Me 2 is appropriately like a magic show. It’s ridiculous, preposterous, and shamelessly over-the-top. At the same time, it’s also stylish, imaginative, and simply a lot of fun. The cynic in you might want to jot down all the absurd plot holes that make zero sense. At the end of the day, though, it’s better to sick back and go along for the ride. After all, film is already an illusion. So just don’t think too much about what’s going on behind the curtain.
This sequel to the 2013 surprise hit once again follows the Four Horsemen – and no, not the ones from X-Men: Apocalypse. Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, and Dave Franco are all back as Danny Atlas, Merritt McKinney, and Jack Wilder, respectively. Isla Fisher, who almost drowned on the set of the first movie, sits this one out. Lizzy Caplan is a more than welcome replacement, however, lighting up the screen as Lula. These four magicians/thieves receive aid from Mark Ruffalo’s Dylan Rhodes, the FBI agent who’s been living a double life.
Everyone’s freedom is jeopardized when an anonymous player targets them. In order to evade the authorities, the Four Horsemen are forced to team up with Daniel Radcliffe’s Walter Mabry. He’s a charismatic tech genius who favors science over magic, which is especially ironic seeing how Radcliffe is best known for playing Harry Potter. Mabry hires the Horsemen to pull off a big heist, but he may have more devious intentions. Also back in the mix are Michael Caine as the villainous Arthur Tressler and Morgan Freeman as the mysterious Thaddeus Bradley, who mainly exists to provide exposition. Of course nobody gives exposition better than Freeman.
As we’ve come to expect, the setup is basically Ocean’s Eleven meets The Prestige. That’s not at all a bad thing. The star-studded cast has terrific chemistry and you can tell that every actor is having a ball. These characters might not have much depth to them, but they’re all still incredibly likable and easy to root for. Besides, nobody goes to a film like this for rich character development. They go for the creative tricks, the colorful imagery, and the entrancing showmanship. That’s exactly what Now You See Me 2 promises and it more than delivers.
Director Jon M. Chu pumps the film with kinetic energy, amounting to several insanely inventive set pieces. The highlight is a card trick that could seriously give Gambit a run for his money. (Hey, that’s the second time I’ve brought up X-Men in this review!) The climax is a terrific spectacle too, although it does raise countless questions. For starters, why can’t the FBI apprehend the Four Horsemen? These flashy criminals draw so much attention to themselves that the cops from Superbad could easily track them down. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles do a better job at blending in. Every time we start to analyze the plot, though, Chu has another trick up his sleeve to distract us. That’s how a true magician captivates his audience.