Monday, June 27, 2016

"Now You See Me 2" Review: This Sequel Is Far Less Magical Than It Is Just Obnoxiously Rudimentary


The first Now You See Me was a fun, if a bit shallow little film. The idea of mixing magic with a heist movie was and still is an interesting premise even though the formula seemed to be used to its full potential during its first outing. But that didn't stop them from going to the magic well one more time for one of the more innocuous sequels in recent memory. With nearly all parties returning to the stage, Now You See Me 2 has the talent but is the magic still there? Read the full review after the break.

Review Vital Stats:   
Projector Type: 2D Digital        
Film Rating: PG-13
Film Runtime:  1 hr 55 min
Studio: Lionsgate
Release Date: June 10, 2016

Biases:  
Loves: Magic
Likes: Just about the entire cast, the first Now You See Me
Neutral: Cash-in sequels
Hates: Cash-in sequels that don't deliver
What happened to Isla Fisher?: She was unable to be a part of the sequel due to her pregnancy at the time of shooting.

While they do attempt to explain this magic trick, it is still pretty much bullshit.

After being accepted into the enigmatic magic ( or is that enimagic?) organization known as The Eye at the end of the last film, our motley crew of magicians The Four Horsemen, Daniel (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt (Woody Harrelson), Jack (Dave Franco) and newcomer Lula (Lizzy Caplan) have been laying low for over a year awaiting for new instructions from their leader, FBI agent and secret master magician Dylan (Mark Ruffalo). When they do finally get the go ahead to take down an arrogant businessman in true Horseman fashion they are thwarted by an unknown adversary who kidnaps them and forces them to work their proverbial magic in order to steal a piece of technology for the mysterious and extremely self assured Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe) who just so happens to hold the key to their freedom.

While the first film had a fairly balanced mix of magic versus mischief, it's sequel Now You See Me 2 (henceforth known as NYSM2) feels as though it has shifted its focus to more mischief leaving the magic more of a sideshow than the main attraction. This is probably the biggest disappointment in a film that already had an uphill battle trying to capture the same kinetic energy and originality that made the first film so much fun. Heist films come and go with the wind, Ocean's Eleven, The Town, Inside Man, Mission: Impossible and Bank Job are just a hint of what the genre has to offer and the only thing that made the first film stand out from the pack was the magic.

Lula would like to remind that she is the new girl...and then remind you again...and again....

It probably wouldn't be that big a deal though if the actual heist part was at least something different than we had seen before. Even the first film was able to show us something a little different by daring us to figure out how the Four Horsemen robbed a bank while on the other side of the world, but NYSM2 provides one of the most pedestrian heists of all time. It doesn't help either when the audience has very little idea what it is they are stealing, who exactly they are stealing from and ultimately why we should care outside the fact that they must do this to be free. Lastly it is all ruined by a completely asinine display of self indulgence when they all start throwing a card around while being searched which begs questions such as why are they being searched multiple times and why doesn't someone just hold on to it after being searched? It is all so laughably absurd that you almost forget that you don't care what they are doing there in the first place.

Other stumbles come in the form of the introduction of the brand new Horseman Lula who takes the place of Isla Fisher's character from the first film (the only major actor to not return). While Caplan is always a breath of fresh air whenever on screen she is saddled with some of the most obnoxious in your face public relations B.S. ever witnessed in a film where a lead character was swapped out for a replacement in the sequel. Seriously, they spend almost more time constantly reminding us that she is the new girl than they do trying to explain the plot which in hindsight might have been the smartest course of action since the overall plot is just sheer nonsense.

"Surprise! I'm not very interesting but I like to pretend I am"

The script for NYSM2 feels as though the writers were looking for excuses to bring everyone back to the sequel more so than trying to tell a good story. Yes, it's cool that Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine are back but once you find out why exactly why they are back it really stretches credibility. That goes double for Freeman's character who made for such a juicy bad guy in the first film but here we see all that real estate set up before torn down for a twist that isn't so much clever as it is just stupid and rather unrealistic considering both his and Ruffalo's characters actions before.

At least Daniel Radcliffe seems to be having a lot of fun as the bad guy which goes a long way to forgiving the fact that the twist with his character makes him sort of pathetic compared to how grandiose he appeared in the beginning. Just about the only real fun and inspired new character introduced here is amusingly enough also played by Woody Harrelson who is playing Merrit's evil twin Chase. Harrelson has always been underestimated when it comes to his comic appeal and here we see him let loose to create a character that unlike Radcliffe's character the audience just loves to hate. Plus it helps a lot that Harrelson plays Chase so over the top that you just can't help but feel the film develop a new sense of purpose whenever he shows up.

The only real magic here is how flawlessly they rip off so many other heist flicks.

Is NYSM2 as bad as all that makes it sound though? Well, sort of but it isn't that kind of bad where you regret seeing it. The cast is still on point and full of energy even if the script isn't, the few magic tricks we do get are still fun to watch unfold despite being completely unbelievable which the first film also suffered from. It was also nice to do a little globetrotting this time around as well (the trick that landed the Horseman in China was particularly inspired). But even with some good cards still up its sleeve from time to time, NYSM2 ultimately suffers from the sequel-birthed-by-success syndrome and feels not just like a cash-in but also unnecessary which could be the most damning thing anyone can say about it.


FINAL THOUGHTS:

The first film had its moments and while flawed was still able to pull off a magic trick that landed it a rather solid theatrical run. The only flaw in that situation however was the usual studio need to try and recreate that same run of luck with a wholly by the numbers sequel that does little to distinguish itself from other films in the same genre and even its very own predecessor. If you liked the first film then just wait for this one to hit home cause otherwise the only worthwhile trick pulled will be the money floating out of your wallet.

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