‘Now You See Me 2’
Director: Jon M. Chu
Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Lizzy Caplan
2 (out of 5) Globes
“Now You See Me 2” is not as mouth-frothingly, tinfoil hat-wearingly inane as the first, but is that a good thing? The super-surprise 2013 magical magicians hit played like “Drunk History” but for movies. In it, a laughably overqualified cast looked powerfully confused as they ran through a nonsensical plot — some balderdash made even sillier because it kept stopping to explain what happened and succeeded only in making even less sense. Was that the charm? That it freed the brain from even a baseline of logic, all while pretending to be about that most rigorous of sciences: the sleight of hand, meant to fool rubes?
It’s not clear if even the studio heads knew why the first made cash money, but the follow-up is less barking mad, though still plenty stupid. A sequel is the chance to erect a world, to deepen a mythology and the characters within it. But how do you build when the foundation is cracked and overrun with weeds? And so our conjurers and con artists who may or may not have actual supernatural powers are back — well, some of them are. In the grand tradition of cash-in sequels, one member (Isla Fischer) is unceremoniously replaced with another (Lizzy Caplan), with only a sad throwaway line to explain her absence. Why gods like Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine returned is a deeper mystery.
Otherwise it’s back to business, whatever that is. Having successfully become world famous Robin Hood-style illusionists who can teleport things and disappear on magical carousels, the team — Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco and Jesse Eisenberg, in descending order of commitment — find themselves the target of a billionaire rich kid (Daniel Radcliffe). He wants to destroy them, but not before he blackmails them into using their gifts for elaborate “Mission: Impossible”-style schemes — which look far, far more expensive than any goods they’re stealing — to make off with a MacGuffin that will allow him to rule the world or something. At least you can describe the plot in a fairly simple sentence. With this franchise that’s a major step-up.