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Now You See Me 2 Movie Review

Now You See Me 2: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art
Now You See Me 2 is now available on home video. Read our review of the Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo.

Now You See Me 2 (2016) movie poster Now You See Me 2

Theatrical Release: June 10, 2016 / Running Time: 129 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Jon M. Chu / Writers: Ed Solomon (story & screenplay); Pete Chiarelli (story); Boaz Yakin, Edward Ricourt (characters)

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg (J. Daniel Atlas), Mark Ruffalo (Dylan Rhodes), Woody Harrelson (Merritt McKinney, Chase McKinney), Dave Franco (Jack Wilder), Daniel Radcliffe (Walter Mabry), Lizzy Caplan (Lula), Jay Chou (Li), Sanaa Lathan (Deputy Director Natalie Austin), Michael Caine (Arthur Tressler), Morgan Freeman (Thaddeus Bradley), David Warshofsky (Agent Cowan), Tsai Chin (Bu Bu), William Henderson (Young Dylan), Richard Laing (Lionel Shrike)

Preorder Now You See Me 2 from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD • DVD • Instant Video

Now You See Me 2, which clearly should instead be titled Now You Don't, follows up the 2013 caper whose success surprised in that it wasn't based on anything. If hits without a pre-existing brand or source text are rare,
sequels to such hits are even rarer. I had doubts the moment this follow-up was greenlit, so I'm glad to report that Now 2 is not as unnecessary or redundant as you might fear.

The Horsemen, a popular group of magicians whose act also involves a bit of do-good thievery, are in hiding after having stolen millions from an insurance magnate. In case you need a refresher, the collective consists of street magician Danny Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), death-faking pickpocket and sleight of hand illusionist Jack Wilder (Dave France), hypnotist Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), and, the real leader behind the scenes, FBI Agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo).

Due to pregnancy, Isla Fisher has not returned as escape artist Henley Reeves, creating an opening for a female that is soon filled by Lula (Lizzy Caplan), whose skills have developed considerably since she infamously pulled a hat out of a rabbit eight years ago.

The Four Horsemen return in "Now You See Me 2", only with Lizzy Caplan replacing Isla Fisher.

The gang is back in action at a software company launch, but while they are prompting via hypnosis the company's crooked CEO to embarrass himself, the stage performers and their secret ally/chief FBI investigator are exposed. Making their getaway, they end up in Macau, China, where they discover they have been conned by Merritt's twin brother Chase (Harrelson with a full head of hair, a tan, and bleached teeth), who is doing the bidding of Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), a young businessman who faked his own death a year ago and is living off the grid.

Walter demands that the Horsemen steal a new computer chip that has near-infinite potential to manipulate the financial market and invade people's privacy. They're not sold on the plan, but they agree, acquiring some supplies at the world's oldest magic shop, which is run by an old woman (Tsai Chin) and her grandson (Jay Chou) who know more than they let on. Also featuring in the plot is imprisoned magic debunker Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) and Walter's illegitimate father, the swindled swindler Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine).

A large part of the original Now's appeal lied in the fact that it was just an entertaining standalone movie, not part of a franchise or a "cinematic universe" or even a remake. Now it is a franchise but in making the leap to that it has managed to not lose its sense of fun. Now 2 is, much like its predecessor, an entertaining movie with broad appeal. It's not a "film" and it's not trying to build mythology to expand into more sequels and spin-offs or other mediums. It's just good PG-13 popcorn entertainment, the kind that otherwise almost always involves superheroes these days.

Daniel Radcliffe joins the franchise as Walter Mabry, a wealthy and unscrupulous young businessman who faked his death a year earlier.

These heroes have illusionary powers that are easy to believe with the movie magic that a studio film's visual effects budget can easily supply. They're fun characters who form an even more fun dynamic.
I compared the first film to Ocean's Eleven and thankfully, this one isn't an Ocean's Twelve. Though the cast is clearly having a good time, they have not forgotten there is an audience to satisfy. Those who liked the first Now should also enjoy the second serving.

Jon M. Chu (Step Up sequels, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Jem and the Holograms) has taken the directing torch from Louis Leterrier (Clash of the Titans and 2008's The Incredible Hulk) and though neither man's résumé breeds much hope, the enjoyable outings prove the material is enough fun to not require a gifted and distinct artist at the helm. Meanwhile, two of the original film's three writers have been replaced to no apparent detriment. Ed Solomon (Men in Black), returning, is alone attributed for the screenplay and shares story credit with Pete Chiarelli (The Proposal). Solomon again displays the ability to divide action among the ensemble tactfully and to craft creative twists that are easy to follow and easy to swallow.

The cast is once again on point, from legends Freeman and Caine staying sharp in old age to Harrelson having fun with double duty to Ruffalo and Eisenberg proving their ability to improve popcorn movies and art films alike. Caplan, who has some of the film's better lines, is no downgrade from Fisher, who only appears in photos and is kind of hastily written out. Radcliffe seems comfortable in a villain's role and in this company, fitting in as well as Al Pacino did in Ocean's Thirteen and suggesting he can have a long career not only as leading man.

The scene involving the McGuffin chip's heist runs a little too long, unfolding with a playing card being thrown and hidden more times than it has any reason to. But it's diverting enough that you can suspend disbelief. These movies are kind of like the National Treasure ones in that regard. There is plenty of humor and action. It is all nimble and deft enough to please everyone from an 11-year-old boy to his grandfather. It's not challenging or something that will stick with you. It's just slick escapist entertainment that only the movies can provide.

Now You See Me 2 goes head to head with another sequel to a summer 2013 hit in The Conjuring 2. Both films should attract audiences for the one week they have before Finding Dory pushes them downstream. A third Now installment has already been in the works since last year, with Chu and leading cast members all signed on to return. Having already missed one golden title opportunity, let's hope they call it Now You Three Me.

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Related Reviews:
Now You See Me
Now in Theaters: The Conjuring 2 • Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping • The Nice Guys • Me Before You
Jesse Eisenberg: Zombieland • 30 Minutes or Less | Woody Harrelson: The Hunger Games: Complete 4-Film Collection
Mark Ruffalo: Spotlight • Foxcatcher | Morgan Freeman: Last Vegas • Olympus Has Fallen | Jay Chou: The Green Hornet
Lizzy Caplan: The Night Before • The Interview | Dave Franco: Scrubs: The Complete Ninth Season • 21 Jump Street
Directed by Jon M. Chu: G.I. Joe: Retaliation • Step Up 2 The Streets • Step Up 3 • Justin Bieber: Never Say Never
Written by Ed Solomon: Men in Black • Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure | Written by Pete Chiarelli: The Proposal
National Treasure: Book of Secrets • Ocean's Thirteen • The Prestige

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Reviewed June 10, 2016.

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