Movie Review: Now You See Me 2

Following up the 2013 hit Now You See Me, which offered up a fresh and quite entertaining thrill-ride of magic and morally-ambiguous characters, this month's mystifying Now You See Me 2 worked to not only revamp the dynamics of the first film -- from its eye-catching illusions to its cast's captivating charisma -- but also deliver a follow-up that I'm not sure yet was completely necessary. Packing in double the tricks and triple the cheesy gags, this magical sequel managed to hit its mark on some levels, but was masked in its own delusions when it came to delivering a flawless summer blockbuster.

One year after embarking on their heroic quest to expose social and political corruption through way of shadowy magic tricks and grand illusions, the team of illusionists known as the Four Horsemen (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco) soon find themselves in hiding, still evading the prying eye of the FBI. Suddenly called back into action by their trusty handler, FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), the team must enlist in the aid of newcomer Lula May (Lizzy Caplan) in order to expose a shady businessman using an advanced software to steal valuable data. Eventually uncovering the real mastermind behind the plot, technology prodigy Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), the Four Horsemen find themselves in an even-greater game of cat-and-mouse than they've ever encountered. On the run from look-a-like thugs and ruthless conspirators out for their heads, the master illusionists must use every trick up their sleeve to stay one step ahead of their enemies. 

Continuing Hollywood's now-commonplace legacy of shelling out endless sequels for nearly any product that sells well and offers up even the slightest ounce of further potential, we now have the magic-meets-science-fiction-meets-crime-caper sequel Now You See Me 2. Reliant on its established cast of satirical crooks and corrupt cops, as well as its glossy array of astonishing optical illusions that have now become something out of a Marvel film, the sequel to the satisfying 2013 adventure shows us that not only do charming magicians sell tickets, but are also able to entrance moviegoers further into believing their act is something we've never seen before. While the sequel does manage to deliver an enjoyable adventure that escalates its heroes into further mystical mishaps than before, the film's glittering facade masks both a plot and characters we've all seen before. 

Among its flashy special effects and forgetful plot of remedying the corruption of society, one of the highlights of this sequel had to be its cast. Still flawed just like any other cast out there, reliant on new characters and charismatic players to keep the act alive, the cast of the film works in the film's favor for the most part, but ultimately doesn't give the film any more gravitas than it already had. Returning with its mildly-entertaining quadruple star-power from the last film (minus its fourth Horseman, Isla Fisher), the leading master magicians of the film are what hold the film together. From Jesse Eisenberg's cynical yet satirical Danny Atlas to Dave Franco's charming and card-throwing hot-shot Jack Wilder, the main players of the film return elegantly into their decently-established roles, even if they do still spit out laughable jokes and throwaway hints to their ultimate motivations. 

Aside from Woody Harrelson's mocking play against himself as he takes on the roles of both the jocular Horseman Merritt McKinney and his scheming sibling Chase McKinney, the rest of the cast offered little more than their star appeal to the film's final product. Filling up the remainder of the roster with returning faces like the frantic Mark Ruffalo as the Horsemen's shady handler with his own agenda and Morgan Freeman as the jailbird crook with his sights set on the illusionists, the film doesn't gain much even when these players are brilliantly conspiring against one another. As for the new members to the franchise -- Lizzy Caplan and Daniel Radcliffe -- while they are refreshing in their showmanship as the sparky new replacement for Isla Fisher in the Horsemen line-up and the conniving tech-wiz out to scam the world of its privacy, the newcomers rely too much on playful ploys and snarky wit to keep their place among the fast-paced illusions keeping the film afloat. 

Not even the magic of his childhood career can save Daniel
Radcliffe from becoming a one-dimensional villain
Filling up its 129-minute runtime with forgetful flashbacks and colorful ploys trying to hint at more and more character development for its mostly-one-dimensional characters, another highlight of the film had to be the aspect that encompassed the majority of the film's running time: the magic. Yes, while it may be muddled in computer animation and tests your beliefs beyond belief as to what is actually real, one of the most enjoyable elements of this series has to be its captivating tricks of the trade. From its spell-binding scenes of playing-card hide-and-seek to its fast-paced action sequences involving everything from mirrors to massive fluttering cloaks, this hypnotizing adventure ultimately packs in double the visual stimuli in order to keep your eyes moving and your thoughts away from its clich├ęd story. While the visuals are nothing overly spectacular, they do allow the audience to get lost in the film, offering up something fascinating for the eye to watch, even when the rest of the film feels dry.

Overall, while it suffers from commonplace themes and mostly-unexciting ploys of magic and illusion, the sequel to Now You See Me delivered a decent entry to kick off the summer season. With a brilliant cast at its disposal, as well as the tasteful appeal of its predecessor, Now You See Me 2 might not be the best sequel we see out of Hollywood this summer, but it was a worthy adventure to embark on if you're a fan of the first installment. A film that allows you to let your preconceptions of the physics of magic power down for two hours, this popcorn flick offered up your typical flawed yet pleasurable summer blockbuster.

I gave this film a 6 out of 10 for its entertaining yet dull tricks of CGI magic and tired character development, its brilliant cast that hit their mark at least some of the time, and its audacity to put Daniel Radcliffe in a film about magic and not utter a single Harry Potter reference (please correct me if there actually is one).                   

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