Director: John M. Chu
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Lizzy Caplan
Written by Daniel Chadwick-Shubat
Movies are magical in more ways than one; they create fantastical worlds that only exist in the mind, and have brought to life some of the most beloved fictional characters in the world. ‘Now You See Me 2’ is a movie about magic, but sadly it creates very little of that movie magic. Like a lot of sequels, it’s bogged down by the fact the audience have to know what happened in the previous movie, and is at times a little too smart for its own good.
The Four Horsemen (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco and now Lizzy Caplan, replacing Isla Fisher from the previous movie) return for a second mind-bending adventure, elevating the limits of stage illusion to new heights and taking them around the globe. One year after outwitting the FBI and winning the public’s adulation with their Robin Hood-style magical spectacles, the illusionists resurface for a comeback performance in hopes of exposing the unethical practices of a tech magnate. The man behind their vanishing act is none other than Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), a tech prodigy who threatens the Horsemen into pulling off their most impossible heist yet. Their only hope is to perform one last unprecedented stunt to clear their names and reveal the mastermind behind it all.
The addition of Daniel Radcliffe to the sequel was a huge positive in my eyes, as it’s been a while since Radcliffe has gotten to do anything comedic. I’ve really enjoyed his works as of late, including the likes of ‘Horns’ and ‘The Woman in Black’ but here he really got to run with his “villainous” role and ended up being one of the most enjoyable characters of the movie. You can’t quite hate him, and maybe that was the point.
But the return of many of the original cast members meant that this was a very recognisable cast, whoch actually worked against the sequel. With the likes of Eisenberg, Ruffalo, Harrelson, Freeman, Radcliffe and Caine all having to be crammed in and serve the plot, it ended up making the movie way too convoluted to really dig into. It also meant the likes of Caplan and Franco (who are two fantastic young actors) were left on the wayside a bit, not allowing the two to gel at all and throwing in some dumb, out-of-nowhere romantic side-plot that just felt forced.
Don’t get me wrong, this film was still enjoyable, with the magic looking as cool as ever and the comedic banter between the Horsemen still going strong. And as someone who can’t help but love Mark Ruffalo, it was great to see him have a bigger role in the sequel and see some of his character’s backstory. Unfortunately though, everything that went wrong with the original, once again failed here, and thanks to the overcrowded cast, this sequel became even more of a mess than its predecessor.
If the producers do decide to make a third installment (as the ending here suggests) then they have got to make it a more concentrated story and give more screen time to the Horsemen rather than all the secondary characters around them. The movie was still a fun time in the theatre, and the comedic thriller aspect really worked for the movie, especially in the most memorable scene involving a security guard and a banana (when you see it, you’ll know). All it needs is a little more movie magic and a little less pretension, and it’ll be on the right track.