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Now You See Me 2 (2016)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

NOW YOU SEE ME 2 (2016)

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Lizzy Caplan, Daniel Radcliffe, Michael Caine

Written By: Ed Solomon (also story), Pete Chiarelli (story)

Directed By: Jon M. Chu

The Shot

Now You See Me 2 doesn’t capture the same magic as the original, but it does all right finding its own as a more traditional caper with a heavier emphasis on action and a delightful addition to the cast.  It’s well worth seeing, and fun enough to own when the time comes.

The Highball

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


More mass market, stretches things a bit, but still very tasty.

Pairs Well With...


I’m pretty sure this movie wanted to be a martini, but hey.

“Let the momentum of the card do the work for you.”

In 2013, Now You See Me came out as pleasant box office surprise: something artful, magical, brilliantly fun, a wee bit different, and – this is the big one for the studio set – financially successful.  Of course you know what that means: eventually, a sequel was bound to happen, whether anyone was clamoring for it or not.

With that said, Now You See Me 2 is no cheap follow-up.  Save one who bowed out for family reasons, the entire main cast from the previous film – including Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman – is back for the sequel, and they’ve brought some new friends with them, including Daniel Radcliffe (who, of course, plays a character incapable of performing magic, lest anyone confuse him for some guy he played in some other movies once upon a time).  The locations are great and the effects budget is there…

…but the original director isn’t.

So, what does that mean?

It means that the thoughtfully artistic magic and intelligent showmanship that made the first film such a special experience are gone.  They’ve been replaced by much more standard Hollywood-style magic that involves a heavier dose of standard action (you know: chasing, fist fights, that kind of thing) and quite nifty but much more standard special effects (you know: that kind that no observant human being could possibly believe a real magician could pull off without the efforts of the real wizards working in post production).  Indeed, the traditional “magic” illusions that defined the original picture are cut significantly to make more room for the Hollywood stuff, and some new plot elements don’t quite jive with what came before.  One could call these observations an indictment, but they don’t have to be.  No, Now You See Me 2 is not the same kind of magical experience as its predecessor… but it doesn’t have to be the same to be fun.

Because hey, capers are inherently fun, right?  Sure they are!  (Hey, look! A MacGuffin!) And there’s a reason that the studio suits hired Jon M. Chu to put a more standard Hollywood spin on this movie; it’s because lots of people like chase scenes and back alley fights, just as lots of people like special effects that they know can’t possibly be pulled off without heavy post production work.  I’ll admit that after seeing some of his previous work, it surprises me that Chu was able to deliver with Now You See Me 2, but the fact is that he does.  From a pure “fun in the moment” perspective, there’s no way that this flick scores anything less than “enjoyable popcorn.”

And whenever there’s even the smallest chance that Now You See Me 2 might slip from that platform, the exuberant performance of newcomer Lizzy Caplan is there to lift things up again.  Her performance is a joy to watch; a refreshing breath that reminds us not to take things quite so seriously.  Tack on the amusement of double trouble from Woody Harrelson, and it’s easy to forget that Jesse Eisenberg gets a wee bit emo and that no one quite seems to know what to do with Mark Ruffalo’s character.

Just don’t pay any attention to what’s behind the curtain... or what’s missing from the pages of the script.  For while it is possible to enjoy Now You See Me 2 at a surface level with completely fresh eyes, the majority of the film’s finer details will be completely lost on audiences who haven’t experienced the original Now You See Me beforehand.  And for those who have seen the first movie, some new elements in this one don’t quite gel right.  Nothing obnoxious, nothing deal breaking, but very much there.

But Lizzy Caplan.  And Brian Tyler’s music.  And fun.  And what is it that magicians are supposed to do during their shows?  Oh, right.  They escape.

Whatever else it may or may not be, Now You See Me 2 is a fun way to escape for two hours and change, and that to me is the definition of a very worthwhile movie.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, June, 2016

You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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