Now You See Me 2

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Should really be titled “Now You Don’t”, because you shouldn’t see it.
★½
Movie Review #1,080

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Distributed by Summit Entertainment. Action, Adventure, Comedy. Running time: 2 hours, 9 minutes. Rated PG-13 for violence and some language. Released June 10, 2016. Directed by Jon M. Chu. Produced by Bobby Cohen, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci. Screenplay by Ed Solomon, from the characters by Boaz Yakin & Edward Ricourt. Story by Ed Solomon & Pete Chiarelli. Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Daniel Radcliffe, Lizzy Caplan, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman.

This is what happens when you hire Jon M. Chu, the man who directed both of Justin Bieber’s concert movies, to helm the sequel to a great movie. And forgive me for continually comparing “Now You See Me 2” to its predecessor, but it would look even worse if it stood on its own. Instead of another clever movie that twists and turns everywhere you least expect it, you get a movie that plays out like a bad romcom. And Mr. Chu isn’t the only one at fault. The script, written once again by Ed Solomon, is fairly predictable and all too cheesy. Worse yet is the film’s sense of humor. Rather than the occasional smart-people chuckles offered in the first movie, this sequel constantly aims low for cheap laughs. You feel like you’re watching the Disney Channel, except there’s more eye-rolling and more pity laughs.

The premise of this sequel, on paper, isn’t half-bad. We’ve got the Four Horsemen returning, now assigned to take down a corrupt entrepreneur who steals computer software for his own benefit. Helping them on this mission is Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), a former business partner to the subject. Radcliffe might be the best part of this movie. His performance is enthusiastic, clever, and refreshing. None of the rest of the cast holds a candle to him. I pity Jesse Eisenberg, Dave Franco, and Woody Harrelson for their performances in this film. “Now You See Me 2” is out of their league. These three are more than decent actors and they deserve better material to work from. Then there’s Lizzy Caplan. She’s not the best actress, but I never thought she’d stoop so low as she did here. Caplan replaces Isla Fisher as the Fourth Horseman, possibly because Fisher was smart enough to not sign on for a sequel. In all fairness, I wish she had signed on, because Caplan is almost unwatchable. She gives a taller and skinnier version of what we saw Joe Pesci do in the “Lethal Weapon” sequels, except Joe Pesci’s garrulousness was actually funny and he knew when to shut up.

“Now You See Me 2” will soon enough be another movie on FX that we find while we’re flipping through channels, and I doubt we’d be inclined to stay past the first commercial break. The film is a barrage of one corny joke after another, but its worst moment comes at the end. I don’t know if Mr. Solomon or Mr. Chu were trying to blow my mind, but the utter stupidity of the last-minute twist ending certainly did. For a film that seems to be nothing more than a dumb excuse to show off bad humor and underwhelming special effects, I suppose you have to give them credit for actually attempting to be smart, but then again, “Now You See Me 2” serves as a reminder that watching stupid people try and act smart can be quite excruciating.

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