Three years ago “Now You See Me” played like “Ocean’s Eleven” reimagined by Penn and Teller. A magical heist movie, it introduced a prestidigitation collective known as The Four Horsemen—Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher (replaced by Lizzy Caplan in this sequel), Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco—who outsmarted the FBI and Interpol with some highly focused hocus pocus. The tricksters stole from the rich to give to the poor—the poor people who paid premium prices to see their shows.
When asked how any of this could have happened Interpol agent Alma Vargas (Mélanie Laurent) says, “Some things are best left unexplained.”
Also left unexplained is how a star-studded but modest hit like “Now You See Me” spawned a sequel three years after it briefly played in theatres.
The new film, “Now You See Me 2,” begins one year after the last one ended with the Four Horsemen staging a comeback. This time, however, the trick backfires and the magicians are forced to escape, fleeing from one side of the world to the other via a giant chute.
New York to China in under a minute. “This makes no sense,” says J. Daniel Atlas (Eisenberg) upon arrival in China. Damn right. It’s that kind of movie. Buy into that and the rest of the movie’s twists and turns will seem… if not quite believable than a little less preposterous. The world’s greatest magicians have just become the object of someone else’s magic trick.
In Macau, the Vegas of China, the mysterious tech genius Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe)—imagine Harry Potter with a James Bond villain vibe—forces them to use their skills to pull off a seemingly impossible heist, the theft of “the stick,” a device able to hack any computer on earth. Using misdirection, hypnotism, showmanship and sleight-of-hand—coupled with some good old-fashioned CGI movie magic—the Horsemen must pull off their greatest trick—exposing Mabry.
“Now You See Me 2” has a serious case of the sillies but luckily it embraces its silliness. Revels in it, even. For instance Caplan’s character Lula is best known for a previously unheard of magic trick, pulling a hat out of a rabbit. Make sense? Nope, but in “Now You See Me 2’s” world it doesn’t have to.
It all makes sense in a Harry Houdini misdirected kind of way, but don’t worry if the labyrinthine plot loses you here and there. Every few minutes one of the characters explains what’s just happened, or what is about to happen. Even though magicians aren’t supposed to tell their secrets the Horsemen can’t seem to stop giving away the movie’s riddles. There’s way too much exposition but by and large the mix of action, intrigue and magic is a fun diversion.