‘I’ ON CULTURE
A movie about magic should be light, fun and use the magic to make a real point. Now You See Me 2 is pretty good on the first two, but the overall script is so convoluted that it wanders around far too much. That is a shame, since the performances are fun, the magic is really interesting and the actors seem to be having a great time.
The magic tricks were wildly impressive, not surprising since magician David Copperfield was a co-producer, in charge of the tricks. The problem with all of the magic involved is that these days, movies can simply trick your eyes and it becomes difficult to ascertain whether the magic is “real” or simply computer-generated. Suffice it to say, it comes across as awesome, yet it is unsatisfying just because it is so over the top. Even worse, some of the best tricks are actually explained, taking away the feel of magic.
The movie begins a year after the first movie ended. The Four Horsemen, minus one — the girl has left, ostensibly because she had other things in mind, although there are hints she was disappointed in the group’s leader Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) — are hanging around, practicing and waiting for another chance to shine. The silent partner/leader Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) brings in a new girl Lula (Lizzy Caplan) and gives them a new assignment: the disruption of an event announcing a new smartphone that secretly will give the company almost unlimited control over everyone. Things backfire badly: Dylan is exposed as leader and the magician goes through a slide here in America that somehow comes out in Macau.
The villains who set up the trick (and show how it was done) are led by Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), who wants them to steal the key computer chip behind the device. That sets up a series of tricks that involve Merritt (Woody Harrelson), identical twin Chase (also Harrelson) and Jack (Dave Franco), as well as villain Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine). In the middle of all of this, Dylan’s nemesis Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) strives to gum up the works. There are references galore to the past film, but trying to figure out where any of it was going required real work for the audience.
The acting is really good, as might be expected by this cast. There are even a few scenes where it is really required, and the old pros know how to handle that. Several of the scenes between Ruffalo and Freeman really sizzle. Radcliffe does a great job as the central villain. But it was clear that for all of the top actors, this was simply a fun job.
The real problem is that being a sequel creates new problems. The first time around, I felt the movie showed something different, something new. This one, despite even fancier tricks, was repetitious. There were far too many diversions, some of which made fairly little sense, that essentially took up time. It was so twisted that even after the big climactic ending, they used another 10 minutes for another ending that changed some of the story, possibly setting up another sequel.
One point not related to the film… The changes that the Regal Cinemas on State Road 7 has undergone have made for a changed experience. The seats now recline and raise a support for your legs, which is great in an era of long films. Special racks to hold snacks that can be pulled in front of you are also good. Unfortunately, you now have to actually pick out your seats by computer, which greatly slows the line for buying tickets. That is really dumb, when some theaters are almost empty. Now you know why they show 20 minutes of trailers before the films. Plan on getting to that theater particularly early if it’s likely to be crowded.
The movie itself is harmless fun. It is certainly not a great film, not even a really good one. But it is a fun diversion, and a few of the scenes are enjoyable. There was one at a high-security place in Macau involving flicking around a key chip the size of a playing card that was beautifully set up. There are many big movies out now, with quite a few coming out. You won’t waste your time going to this one, but it will not be one of those you’ll remember in the future.