“Now You See Me” was a soft surprise of 2013. It wasn’t anywhere near the best film of the year, or even the most enjoyable, but it was a surprising piece of original summer cinema that shook up the box office typically dominated by superhero films and sequels. Now, “Now You See Me” has the privilege of being among the many sequels of the summertime, with its original successes large enough to warrant a bigger and better sequel. Returning to the table are the Four Horsemen…well, now only three Horseman, as Dave Franco’s character of Jack Wilder is still believed to be dead to the public…actually, only two horsemen, as Isla Fisher could not return to the sequel due to her pregnancy. Now, the Horsemen, along with the help of some new friends, are setting out to put on another magic show like never seen before.
Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) are in hiding after the events of “Now You See Me.” Meanwhile, FBI Agent and Horsemen leader Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) spends his days stalling the FBI investigation into the Horsemen as they grow impatient, while also recruting a new member to the group, Lulu (Lizzy Caplan.) When the Horsemen get the opportunity to perform their next show to reveal the privacy hacking tactics of a cell phone company mogul, things turn sour when they are hijacked during their show, setting a plan of events into motion where it’s hard to know who to trust.
“Now You See Me 2” doesn’t seek to build a bigger world than the original film, but to simply showcase some more intricately woven tricks and heists, which works for the most part. My audience in the film seemingly had their “minds blown,” as I overheard walking out, and while the film does have quite a few clever tricks up its sleeve, it does revel in the illogical and unrealistic. This takes these scenes down another path for me than “mind blowing,” but rather as more of a sense of clever, imaginative writing and cinematography that gives way to some quite thrilling scenes. Think of the Quicksilver scenes in the “X-Men” movies.
The new cast members, including Caplan, as well as Daniel Radcliffe, Jay Chou and Sanaa Lathan all fit into the cast and story well, playing each of their roles, however big or small they were, well. If the “Now You See Me” movies play anything insanely well, its the cast of the films. Though, it’s not all sunshine and compliments, as another “new” face, in the form of McKinney’s evil twin brother (I’m actually serious), Chase, almost seeks to derail the movie in his obnoxious awfulness. Off the bat, you realize that this isn’t going to go well, as his makeup, wig and teeth are borderline comical in their attempts to set him apart from Merritt McKinney. From there, things go even more south, as his character is insufferably annoying, poorly acted and completely unnecessary. There is a version of the screenplay without this character somewhere and I feel like the world would be a better place has they gone with it.
Director Jon M. Chu has not always had the most cinematic gravitas in Hollywood, after directing the duo of Justin Bieber documentaries, the G.I. Joe sequel and the borderline death-inducing “Jem and the Holograms” (for which I said some pretty mean things in my review for, which I retract here), Chu seems to finally have found a niche in this film, as it focuses quite a bit on his stylized, colorful way of working. The film doesn’t require an Oscar-worthy director behind the camera, and the sheer visual flare that Chu brings forth does the film well, especially in its use of color in the international scenes in Macau and London. The film is dazzlingly sharp and clear, and Chu doesn’t cut the camera around all over the place like in the past. He still has work to do, but his improvement in this film is praise enough.
Of course, the end of “Now You See Me 2,” much like its predecessor, sets itself up for a “Now You See Me 3,” already announced with Chu returning as director. As sequels go, especially for a sequel to a non-amazing film, “Now You See Me 2” fits the bill pretty well. In the same vein of “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” this film will strike a chord with those who enjoyed the first film, and fail to do so with those who did not, due to their similarities ins style and storytelling. “Now You See Me 2” plays it pretty close to the chest, but thanks to its game cast and fun sequences, mindless summer fun has never felt so cool.
Directed by: Jon M. Chu
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Daniel Radcliffe, Lizzy Caplan, Jay Chou, Sanaa Lathan, with Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman.
Runtime: 129 minutes
Rating: PG-13 for violence and some language.
Summit Entertainment presents, a K/O Paper Products production, a Jon M. Chu film, “Now You See Me 2”