Friday, June 10, 2016

Movie Review: "Now You See Me 2" (2016)

© Summit Entertainment

Is this movie called Now You See Me: The Second Act? I, um... the theater seemed to think so, but the opening movie credits didn't. Looks like the Marketing team changed their mind halfway through and decided new branding was in order. Wouldn't have helped, though—nothing could have. The movie's title is the least of its problems.

A year after the events of the original, and the Four Horsemen illusionists (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, with new horseman Lizzy Caplan) are ready to make their reappearance after being in hiding from the FBI, who are still hot on their trail. In hopes of revealing the secrets of a new computer chip that can hack any computer and information, the team's return to the stage is unexpectedly interrupted, and they find themselves in Macau, China, face to face with a new enemy, Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe). With their leader and outed FBI agent, Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) forced to work with his [apparently] mortal enemy, Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), to find them, the Horsemen are forced to plan their most intricate heist yet (not really): stealing the chip for Mabry to use as he sees fit. Naturally, there's more to the story, and only their trusty magic tricks can save them now.

This whole movie was awful. Just awful. It's shocking that so many incredible actors were convinced to say such stupid things. The reveals were mediocre and unimpressive, even more so (from what I can tell) than the original. Granted, I didn't see that one, but from the looks of it, it was at least unapologetically fun(?). But if the writing there is anything like here, then I won't be giving it a shot. The entire movie takes for granted that you've seen the first one, which I hadn't, and the introduction of characters is practically non-existent. Not bad for an involved sequel, but this one could have spared the time to round everyone out a bit for a new audience. This isn't Harry Potter. You don't have a rich world to re-establish; but a hint about why we should care wouldn't hurt.

Rather than creating an entirely new story, bringing in a new-ish villain with completely different goals, they simply regurgitate the same old revenge plot from the first with boring, hapless criminals and far less spectacle. Michael Caine comes off like a stumbling amateur, and Daniel Radcliffe's Geoffrey-style whining was only compounded by his predilection for walking across glass, fish-filled floors barefoot and not shaving. The set up for stealing this coveted computer chip is absurd, yet the heist itself is a complete joke. They don't even commit to the "planning montage" that ultimately ends up being the best part. Card flinging tricks are only cool if you're really doing it, not when it's been done cheaply in some post house. And don't even get me started on the finale. What a letdown.

Lizzy Caplan is one of my all-time favorites, but she's reduced to the token woman role without any apology from the writers thanks to Isla Fisher (the previous token female) opting out due to her pregnancy. If fact, the filmmakers kinda lean into the "only woman" concept way too much, and Caplan has to stomach saying lines like "You need a woman on the team!" or whatever nonsense they made her say to explain her presence. You're so much better than this, Lizzy! You all are so much better than this. Yes, even you, Jesse Eisenberg.

I did get some weird feelings I've never experienced towards Eisenberg in this, though, and the sudden experience made me what to take a shower to scrub out the thoughts. There's just a... you know what, never mind. I can't explain it, it was a lapse in attraction-judgment, it won't happen again. Maybe it was the haircut? I don't know!! But admittedly, the showman in him fits the concept for this role just right, but for all that showmanship, there really isn't much of a show.

Your options in the theater this weekend aren't that promising. I recommend seeing something again, like The Nice Guys (review for that coming soon!)

Rating: ★½ / 5 stars

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