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78 | JUNE 9, 2016
NOW YOU SEE ME 2
Now You See Me 2 dodges some of the original’s infuriating problems. BY SCOTT RENSHAW email@example.com @scottrenshaw
n the interest of brevity, and to avoid the spike in my blood pressure every time it comes up: The original 2013 Now You See Me was a bad movie. It was deceptive in its badness, because it offered a bunch of slick surface pleasures, building up to one of those finales where you can imagine everyone involved was smirking and thinking, “Betcha didn’t see that coming.” Which was true—because you couldn’t see “that” coming, because it was a twist built on a massive narrative cheat. And it’s profoundly dispiriting to see something stupid somehow convince a lot of people that it’s smart, simply because of how loudly and brashly it keeps insisting on it, despite lacking any substance for the claim. It was like the Donald Trump of movies. For this reason, the prospect of Now You See Me 2 was not a cause for rejoicing. Yet enough of the things that were painfully wrong in the original get fixed this time around that it’s actually not a chore to sit through. Hooray for the simple pleasures of watching incompetence graduate to mediocrity. The follow-up picks up around 18 months after the events of the first film, with Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) still working for the FBI, keeping the authorities off the trail of his still-in-hiding fugitive magician cohorts known as The Horsemen. With Isla Fisher’s Henley having retired from the group, a newcomer named Lula (Lizzy Caplan) has been recruited to join Daniel (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt (Woody Harrelson) and Jack (Dave Franco) in a new mission to take down a tech company whose new cell phone might be able to hijack users’ personal data. But the mission might be a trap—one that’s built on someone getting even with the Horsemen for Rhodes’ successful plot to avenge his dead father.
On its most basic strucJay Chou, Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Lizzy Caplan, tural level, NYSM2 improves Mark Ruffalo and Dave Franco in Now You See Me 2 upon the original simply by providing a story that’s actualThese are movies built on the promise that ly about the magicians. Where Now You See a metric ton of moving parts will come toMe spent most of its time with Rhodes and gether in a startling Big Reveal, one that will his Interpol partner as he fake-investigated seem like a brilliant culmination of clockthe quartet’s illusion-based crimes, turning work plotting. Ed Solomon’s script doesn’t The Horsemen into an almost completely pull nearly the same dirty tricks that he was personality-free bunch of pieces on a game guilty of the first time around, but he still board, this story allows them to remain cenpacks in way too many characters—includter stage. And they turn out to be a lot more ing Rhodes’ returning adversaries Thadfun—including a spark of energy from the deus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) and Arthur addition of Caplan—when they’re not just Tressler (Michael Caine), and even Harrelenigmatic cameo appearances. son playing an ill-conceived dual role as That’s largely because of one of the other Merritt’s evil twin—and payoffs that feel as key shifts in focus: It’s now a magical heist though they leap several dozen logical steps caper, rather than a procedural about into their conclusion. vestigating a magical heist. The central set It’s all moving along so quickly, that they piece finds the four magicians attempting hope you don’t care that the Horsemen to smuggle a powerful encryption-cracking are like superheroes who develop whatcell phone data card out of a secure facility, ever superpower is called for by the situarequiring a ton of nifty sleight-of-hand and tion at hand. But, hey, sometimes it’s okay physics-defying card-throwing to thwart to be satisfied by small blessings, like not the guards’ pat-downs. It’s clearly preposemerging actively pissed off at what you’ve terous, but it’s also kind of a blast, as direcjust seen. That was one trick I didn’t expect tor John M. Chu (G.I. Joe: Retaliation) lets this sequel to pull off. CW us in on every feint and dodge. Giving our heroes a clear goal against a single clear NOW YOU SEE ME 2 antagonist—a tech billionaire (Daniel Radcliffe) who has faked his own death—allows BB.5 for a focus that the original lacked, even Mark Ruffalo when the inevitable whiffs of a grand con- Jesse Eisenberg spiracy start to overtake things. Woody Harrelson That, unfortunately, is where Now You See Rated PG-13 Me 2 is most like its unpleasant predecessor.
TRY THESE The Prestige (2006) Hugh Jackman Christian Bale Rated PG-13
The Illusionist (2006) Edward Norton Jessica Biel Rated PG-13
G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013) Dwayne Johnson Channing Tatum Rated PG-13
Now You See Me (2013) Mark Ruffalo Jesse Eisenberg Rated PG-13
Making Fun Times Out Of Your Sun Times Summer Guide 2016