Now You See Me was one of Summer 2013’s most pleasant surprises. Charismatic characters and originality turned this heist film involving magicians into a unique film that was exciting from start to finish. But as I’ve always shouted from the mountaintops (my laptop)… EVERY GOOD MOVIE DOES NOT NEED A SEQUEL!
The first film followed FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) as he led an investigation into Robin Hood-esque crimes done by four magicians known as The Four Horsemen. The twist (SPOLIER ALERT for the first movie) was that Rhodes was actually the ringleader of the Horsemen and the whole thing was a plot to get magician snitch Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) behind bars and expose a greedy businessman (Michael Caine) who failed to pay out insurance after the untimely death of Rhodes’ magician father.
Fast forward a year later, the horseman are all in hiding and Rhodes’ cover is still standing with the FBI, now helmed by Sanaa Lathan’s forgettable character. But a new heist is in the works, causing Rhodes to reassemble illusionist Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), hypnotist McKinney (Woody Harrelson) and pick pocket Jack Wilder (Dave Franco). Lizzy Caplain replaces Isla Fisher as the team’s fourth member. Unfortunately for the Horsemen, before they can even pull of their first trick, they and Rhodes are exposed by an anonymous adversary and are forced on the run from the police, leading them to a billionaire tech mogul (Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe) who offers them freedom if they can pull off a heist for him.
The first film had the perfect amount of twists and turns to make the movie seem as viable as possible despite many of the tricks being virtually impossible even after they’re explained. Because this is a sequel, it seems as if the filmmakers feel as if they have to up the ante on almost every front. Sometimes this works (a scene involving some clever card tricks is the best in the movie), but the overall product seems head scratchingly confusing and overblown. The tricks seem more impossible and the twists seem way too convenient. There just isn’t enough set up to justify the hordes of plot twists and the movie suffers under its own weight to try and make it bigger and better.
Lizzy Caplain is a bright spot as quirky newcomer Lula, but every other new character is insufferable. Woody Harrelson’s portrayal of his character’s flamboyant twin brother is the biggest example of this. The character is annoying every second he’s on camera and is never inherently necessary. The climax is decent enough, as it restores the film to the illusionist elements that made the first film so captivating, but the ends hardly justifies the long, convoluted means. I’m all for sequels that live up to their predecessors or even manage to feel genuine, but Now You See Me 2 just seems like an exercise in Hollywood giving us something we think we want, but don’t actually need.
FINAL GRADE: C-