The Stunts Draw the Eye, but The story Asks Why

now you see 2

Robbie K back again, and this time with the third review of the week. This installment focuses on yet another sequel to grace the silver screen and one I never expected, or wanted, to come. My review is on Now You See Me 2, as you can guess from my posting, an attempt to follow up on the successful thriller from 2013. But can this film follow a truly great act? Or is this merely another money making scheme whose name overshadows the quality. Let’s get to the review to find out.

If you remember the first movie, it was a crime/thriller with an underlying mystery that came to a well-concluded end. How do you top that?  Naturally, come up with an even more intriguing mystery and throw in a little vengeance on top of that. Now You See Me 2 takes place merely a year after the last installment and focuses on uncovering the mystery of the Eye, the organization that recruited our “heroes” in the first installment, who may have set them up for failure. The plot is certainly intriguing, and the team manages to throw those famous curve balls we saw in the first film. While the mystery isn’t quite as good as the first one, and the thrills are a bit stale, it makes for an intriguing story nonetheless. My mind was constantly trying to decipher how deep the rabbit hole went and just who was in cahoots when it came to dismantling the team. In addition, they added some of the character development that the last installment lacked, some of which was good and some of which was cornier than a corn maze at a harvest festival.

Outside of the mystery, the vengeance part is so-so in terms of quality. Multiple people have a vendetta against our crew and they go through extraordinary lengths to get it done. However, one of the new characters Walter (Daniel Radcliffe) was not the villain to do so and was more annoying than menacing. Regardless the plot against them wasn’t as suspenseful and a mediocre attempt to try and keep you on your seats as if there were harm to your characters. I applaud them at the good attempt, and appreciate the somewhat emotional twist at the end (which made some of the events in the first movie irrelevant), the vengeance plot was merely a scaffolding for impressive stunts.

But it’s the stunts and magic that really draw the eye in this film. Like the last installment, number 2 has plenty of convoluted plans that show some serious imagination and cleverness. Fans will be pulled into the confusion of how the gang ended up where they were, only to be wowed by the thorough explanation of how the trick was pulled off. When you pull in the fantastic use of CGI, the stunts only get more impressive as our magicians disappear in ways you only dream about. But again the realistic factor sometimes gets drowned out when a convenient opening appears for our group to take (e.g. a box magically collapsing, a trap door in the middle of a crowded street, or a mirror suddenly appearing). These moments are again cool, but a bit eye rolling when they wrap it up with one sentence, which boils down to “we wanted something cool, but we could only do it sloppily.” Overall though, these stunts prove imagination is not dead, and that originality can come in the simplest forms.

In terms of the casting, this is another major strength of the movie. Eisenberg reprises his role as Atlas who still has the chip on his shoulder and ego issues. The snarky comments are fun and funny, but for once I felt it was a bit diluted compared to some of his other roles. Woody Harrelson as the hypnotist was a grand addition and provided some of the funniest moments on the screen with his banter and dialogue. The jokes get a bit tired, but all in all his role in this film has greatly improved. Dave Franco took a bigger role in this one, bringing humor, looks, and a charming story that I really enjoyed. And Mark Ruffalo, well a little sappier and less humor, but it works on a different level than his original character. As for newcomer Lula (Lizzy Caplan), at first she was annoying and too over acted (an attempt at using the shallow comedy for laughs), but then she grew on me and started becoming a much more integral cog into the mix. As for Radcliffe, the actor is still solid in his abilities, but the direction of his character was more whiny brat than anything else and somewhat of a waste of his talents (think Deathly Hallows Part 1 and 2 movie). Despite the flaws though, the cast really supports one another and makes for an entertaining team.

Overall Now You See Me 2 is a fun, entertaining sequel that I enjoyed. The stunts are exciting, the plans convoluted, and the acting is top notch on most grounds. While the story isn’t quite as thrilling, and there are components that didn’t work for me, it still outshines most of the stuff that hits the theaters these days. I recommend a theater visit for this one as well, but you’ll probably get the most out of your money if you rent in about three months. Regardless, enjoy the show and may it be as entertaining to you as it was for me.

 

My scores:

Action/Comedy/Thriller: 8

Movie Overall: 7

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