Now You See Me 2 is a slightly beefier, funnier movie than its predecessor that still fails to learn from any of the original's mistakes and manages to make some new ones along the way.
While not as painstakingly boring or desperate to please as the first one, there are tonal similarities in the sequel that echo throughout the film. The camaraderie between the main characters feels forced, the plot attempts to be overly clever and, perhaps worst of all, there has been little to no personal growth between the first film and now.
The magic tricks, or illusions as they're referred to in the film, are longer and less gimmicky this time around, and are even more captivating, but they still feel hollow. There's a general lack of enthusiasm from the actors with each trick, which is a major problem when half of the magic comes from the performer's selling of it.
To be as vague as possible, because every little detail could be considered a spoiler for what happens in this movie, events occur that bring the team to China, where they meet the reclusive tech giant Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe). Mabry wants to use the team of illusionists to steal a revolutionary computer chip that is being held in a top secret laboratory and threatens to turn in the team of criminal magicians (I mean, c'mon) to federal authorities if they don't abide.
The further down the rabbit hole the team — which consists of Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco and Caplan — goes, the more they learn about Mabry's dark and complicated past, leading to the creation of one of their most intricate and devious illusions yet.
Now You See Me 2 is a great idea that was mishandled by everyone involved
The entire premise for the film sounds exciting on paper, and quite frankly, had the story not been entirely derivative of every other illusionist film, it might have even been a solid flick. That's not the case, however. Now You See Me 2 does nothing to improve the genre, and even worse, seems to be perfectly OK with muddling through a half-baked script, relying entirely on the CG effects to carry the film.
A movie about magic should dazzle; it should transport you to a world of disbelief. Like any good magic show, it should leave you questioning the reality surrounding each trick and wondering how they managed to do what they can. Not only does that curiosity never surface while watching the movie, but Chu goes out of his way to spell out how each trick was pulled off. The explanation doesn't add to the movie, and it takes away from the actual magic of what has been happening on screen.
Like its predecessor, it's all the more disappointing when you consider the potential this franchise had to be something new and exciting. After all, when done correctly, magic on screen can be an exhilarating experience. Christopher Nolan's The Prestige, for example, is a well-manicured, invigorating look into the devious world of illusionists. It captures the loneliness, heartbreak and determination involved in succeeding as one of the best magicians in the world, and while Now You See Me 2 tries to emulate similar themes, it never comes close to pulling it off.
Instead, Now You See Me 2 feels stale. It's the last slice of bread in the bag; something you don't really want or need, but still exists, inevitably waiting to be tossed aside.
In the film, Radcliffe plays a character who doesn't believe in the power of magic and spends the majority of his time trying to tell everyone how stupid it all seems. If you can't even convince Harry Potter that the magic in your film is special, what chance do you have for the rest of the world?
I feel like we're still waiting on a truly great film about illusionists that captures everything about the secretive world and manages to make it equally entertaining. Unfortunately, Now You See Me 2 is most certainly not it.