Pay Attention! <i>Now You See Me 2</i> Turns the Trick of Sequel Success

Susan Ellingburg

A smart, stylish movie that fools the eye even as it delights it. Prepare to watch closely—you’ll still be caught looking, but it’s all part of the fun. Just the thing for a summer night at the movies! 4.5 out of 5.

SEE ALSO: Clever 'Gotcha' Not Enough to See Now You See Me

Want Another Take? Watch Our 3-Minute Video Review of Now You See Me 2
 

Synopsis

A year or so after their first caper made them world-wide celebs, the Robin Hood-style illusionists calling themselves The Horsemen resurface sporting a new member (Lizzy Caplan) and a new unethical exec to expose—live, on stage, of course. But things are never what they seem, even to these masters of illusion. Before they can pull a rabbit out of a… you know… an evil-minded techie (Daniel Radcliffe) bent on world domination (aren't they all?) blackmails the team into pulling off their most impossible heist to date. With the FBI hot on their trail, The Horsemen will have to pull off their biggest trick yet to clear their names and expose the true villain to a watching world.
 

SEE ALSO: It's No Illusion: The Prestige is Pure Magic

What Works?

Now You See Me 2 is slick and stylish in the best possible way. This is a thinking person's movie. When watching a magic trick in person it's best to never take your eye off the ball. Even then, you're bound to miss something, but that makes it all the more fun when the trick is explained. Masterful moments of sleight-of-hand are played to the hilt. A scene where the team plays "hot potato" with an item they’re trying to conceal is particularly delightful.

Speaking of the team, the cast is a bright spot. Daniel (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt (Woody Harrelson), and Jack (Dave Franco) make for a nice ensemble. Lula (Caplan) adds a shot of goofy charm as she takes over the lone lady spot in this otherwise all-boy band (the non-appearance of the previous female Horseman is explained away in couple of throw-away lines). Dylan (Mark Ruffalo) provides a little balance to the overwrought performers in the group. And seriously: anytime you can see Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine in a movie, you should.

SEE ALSO: Tricky Illusionist Plays With Our Expectations

The banter is not quite up to Avengers standards, but snappy. And who doesn't like to see an evil genius taken down before the largest possible audience in a fabulous feat of show-biz?
 

What Doesn't?

The hubris of one character who cockily proclaims, "Can God do that? I don't think so," is annoying and, to my mind, unnecessary. It's one thing to be confident and quite another to put yourself on a par with the Almighty. Fortunately that scene is brief.

Harrelson plays two characters; their interactions are a little off-kilter even for this crowd but it doesn’t detract much.
 

Christian Worldview Elements / Spiritual Themes

Revenge/retribution is a major motivator for several characters. Early on a character says he believes in "an eye for an eye," though, as with most things in this tricky tale, that may not turn out to mean quite what you expect. If you've seen the first film, you know there's an organization called "The Eye" that may or may not have mystical connections; it's hard to say.

While all The Horsemen are brash—they are performers, after all—pride is one character's besetting sin. His high opinion of himself puts the entire team in jeopardy. Then there's the aforementioned business about "I'm going to do something God can't do…" As if.
 

CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers)


The Bottom Line

RECOMMENDED FOR: Viewers who appreciate stories that aren't dumbed down; "magic" fans (the illusionist variety, not the occult version); fans of Leverage (TV show) who miss all those deliciously complicated cons; and anyone who enjoys a stylish spectacle.

NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: People who are uncomfortable with the art of illusion or prefer their comedy more slapstick than smart; those who don’t want to actually pay attention to what's on the screen—you have to watch this one intently.

Now You See Me 2, directed by Jon M. Chu, opened in theaters June 10, 2016; available for home viewing September 6, 2016. It runs 129 minutes and stars Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Daniel Radcliffe, Lizzy Caplan, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman. Watch the trailer for Now You See Me 2 here.
 

Susan Ellingburg spends most days helping to create amazing live events and most nights at the movies, at rehearsals, or performing with vocal ensembles in the Dallas area. This leaves very little time for cleaning house. A natural-born Texan, Susan loves all things British, Sunday afternoon naps, cozy mysteries, traveling with friends, and cooking like a Food Network star (minus the camera crew).

Publication date: June 8, 2016

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