Now You See Me 2 (PG-13) ★½

Dave Franco, Lizzy Caplan, Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson have lost their magic. Photo Credit: Summit Entertainment, Jay Maidment

It’s extra sad when a sequel about magicians delivers absolutely nothing magical.

The 2013 “heist… with magicians!” film Now You See Me had plots issues, sure, but overall I found it to be a whole lotta fun. Plus, I liked its characters. And when I’m having a whole lotta fun at a movie and become vested in its characters, I can usually forgive its other problems.

Unfortunately, Now You See Me 2 is no fun at all, and that means that all of its (many) problems stare you straight in the face—for more than TWO HOURS. It’s the first film in a long time that made me so angry to have completely wasted 129 minutes of my life that I left the theater seething. Perhaps the fact that I enjoyed the first film made the failure of its sequel that much worse.

This time around, we learn that the Horsemen (Jesse Eisenberg’s Atlas, Woody Harrelson’s Merritt, Dave Franco’s Jack, plus Lizzy Caplan as the bubbly Lula after Isla Fisher dropped out) have been in hiding for a few years, but finally have a shot at starting over on the other side of the world in Macau if they can steal “the stick”—an all-powerful computer chip… or something like that—and deliver it to the dastardly tech guru Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe) so that he could do evil things with it. You know, the usual: stealing everyone’s information, invading everyone’s privacy, blah blah blah.

That is my attempt at explaining what this movie is about. But the reality is that I had no idea what was going on most of the time. Between all of the techno-babble and neon schematics involving “the stick,” the references to and squabblings over “The Eye” (an all-powerful secret organization of magicians… I think?), a few double-crossings and the introduction of pointless new characters such as Merritt’s twin brother Chase, my head was spinning. Which, again, might have been OK if there was at least some cool magic to break up all of the tedious blabber and the uninspired moving of characters from Point A to Point B. But even the parts with magic were boring!

For example, in what’s clearly meant to be a showcase sequence, the Horsemen pass “the stick”—which has been disguised as a playing card—back and forth right under the nose of several security guards by flipping it through the air, hiding it in their hands or clothes, or sliding it across the floor. But there is absolutely nothing even remotely magical about what they’re doing—heck, half of the time I thought, “Um… the card is in plain sight—why am I supposed to be impressed by this again? Why aren’t the guards seeing what I’m seeing?” I was embarrassed for the film at that point.

The other sequences involving magic tricks were even worse, or otherwise utterly preposterous. Do not even get me started on the film’s elaborate grand finale, which is set in London on New Year’s Eve for no apparent reason and can only be described as lame. I was so, so sorely disappointed. I mean, David Copperfield is a co-producer of this film! How could they get the MAGIC wrong?!?

I’ll at least give credit to the cast for trying their best. Despite the awful material they had to work with, no one phoned in their performance, though it seemed like everyone was also just kind of playing a caricature of himself—Freeman, the patient old man who’s smarter than everyone else; Harrelson, the guy you’d want to have a beer with (times two); Franco, full of smiles and just excited to be included; Ruffalo, perfecting his aw-shucks vibe; and Eisenberg, extra-twitchy and kind of a jerk. They were all fine. But it wasn’t enough. Because this time around, I didn’t care about them. There was too much going on and not enough time spent reestablishing a good reason for the audience to be wowed by the Horsemen once again. It’s like director Jon Chu thought he could distract us with so much nonsense that we would be tricked into believing we’d seen a good movie.

The Bottom-Line? This sequel should’ve been fun. It should’ve been funny. It should’ve at least entertained its audience with some cool magic tricks. Instead, it is boring, nearly humorless and pointlessly complex. Even its great cast can’t save it. And this is coming from a fan of the original!

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg (Atlas), Mark Ruffalo (Dylan Rhodes), Woody Harrelson (Merritt and Chase McKinney), Lizzy Caplan (Lula), Dave Franco (Jack Wilder), Morgan Freeman (Thaddeus Bradley), Daniel Radcliffe (Walter Mabry), Michael Caine (Arther Tressler)

Credits: Directed by Jon M. Chu; written by Ed Solomon

Studio: Summit Entertainment

Run Time: 2 hours 9 minutes

Erika Olson © June 9, 2016