By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Now You See Me was about magicians and illusionists, but we wished it were more magical and less elusive.
Thus the one-word review of the sequel, Now You See Me 2:
Originally titled, Now You See Me: The Second Act, the follow-up to the 2013 hit things-are-never-what-they-seem caper thriller takes place a year after its predecessor, with the Horsemen still in hiding.
The Horsemen are a troupe of high-tech illusionists, master prestidigitators who pull off seemingly impossible feats of crime or justice while performing live.
Returning to the fray are magician Jesse Eisenberg, hypnotist Woody Harrelson, pickpocket Dave Franco, and their behind-the-scenes leader, FBI agent Mark Ruffalo.
And they’re joined for the second installment by Lizzy Kaplan, who replaces escape artist Isla Fisher.
Of course, retired illusionist Morgan Freeman is still on hand, as is insurance magnate Michael Caine. And they’ve got techie prodigy and spurned investor Daniel Radcliffe to deal with now as well.
The Horsemen want to mount a comeback and want to clear their name.
The plan this trip: to utilize their Robin Hood-like reputation and tactics to expose the illegal practice of the world’s leading technological guru.
As director Louis Leterrier did on the original, sequel director Jon M. Chu (two Step Up flicks, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Jem and the Holograms) invests most of the film’s energy in displaying and dazzling us with the illusions rather than diverting and involving us by developing the characters.
Consequently, the talented cast is underemployed and our acquaintance with the world of anything’s-possible-special-effects miracles undercuts our level of awe.
And the narrative offered by Pete Chiarelli and Ed Solomon’s screenplay is convoluted at beast. There’s showmanship on display, to be sure, but not enough to cover the mountain of implausibilities, including quite a few clearly impossible tricks.
In keeping with the traditions of magicians everywhere, misdirection is employed to spring surprises, but they don’t amount to much and our suspension of disbelief – certainly critical in this case – doesn’t last long, as the film gets more and more preposterous as it goes along.
We see what the good guys are pulling off, but we assume that the world of CGI makes it duck soup for them. Recent magician-themed films such as The Prestige, The Illusionist, and even The Incredible Burt Wonderstone have managed that issue with more success.
After all, these are magicians but not superheroes. It’s one thing to be clever and dexterous and quite another to be inhumanly strong, fast, and limber.
NYSM2 pretty much delivers the same level of movie magic as NYSM; which is to say, not terribly much.
So we’ll make 2 stars out of 4 disappear for the equal sequel, Now You See Me 2. It turns out that the first film’s tagline – “The closer you look, the less you see” — turns out to be not only true but an honest review of the sequel as well.