Now You See Me 2 (dir. Jon M. Chu)

Posted: June 15, 2016 in Uncategorized

“Now You See Me 2” is an empty, soulless, unnecessary, cynical cash grab devoid of fun, humor, or effort. Watching the movie is like eating a rice cake: you know something has been consumed, but you feel empty, hollow, and unfulfilled. The actors are not having fun, but are miming the experience of having fun. The magic tricks in the film do not dazzle because we know most of them could never actually be done as tricks or in-camera, thus negating the whole point of using magic tricks as the original gimmicks of the film. The action is a bunch of herky-jerky nonsense, courtesy of no-talent hack director John M. Chu, whose resume includes Justin Bieber’s documentary, “Jem and the Holograms”, and three “Step Up” films.  This movie only exists because the first film, a semi-entertaining little lark, made a lot more money than expected.

 

So now we have a sequel no one asked for, telling a story no one gives a shit about. A large portion of the film takes place in Macau, China, to increase the chances that the film will be allowed to capture more of that sweet sweet Chinese box office revenue reserved for films the Chinese government deems a co-production. All sequels are made for money, but usually there’s at least a pretense of the film also having an artistic or entertainment reason for existing. Nope. NYSM2 is a product meant to extract money and that’s it. The only entertainment you’ll get out of it is seeing bored, talented actors try to fake giving a shit in order to cash an easy paycheck. Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson (playing two roles, neither of them funny), Jesse Eisenberg, Daniel Radcliffe, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine are all completely wasted as they sleepwalk their way through principal photography and give performances that meet the dictionary definition of “perfunctory”. The only actor who seems to be trying to have fun is Lizzy Caplan, who is new to this sequel, and injects as much of her invaluable personality into the lifeless dialogue she has as possible. She replaces Isla Fisher, who was pregnant at the time of filming and wasn’t able to be in this film, which I’m sure she’s grateful for. Fisher was in “The Brothers Grimsby” earlier this year, though, and while I enjoyed that film (I never got a chance to write a review of it, however) it bombed pretty hard.  Oh, and this film also has Dave Franco, whose performance can be described as Dave Franco-ish.

 

The plot involves our four main magicians/Robin Hoods (Eisenberg, Harrelson, Franco, & Caplan), who are hiding from the law due to some benign crimes they committed in the first film, being kidnapped and forced by an evil rich tech genius (Radcliffe) to steal a computer chip that can steal data from every computer on Earth. So that’s our MacGuffin for this film. Ruffalo, the FBI agent who is actually the magicians’ leader and also had a famous magician father that died once, meanwhile has a B plot about coping with his dad’s death and the magician-debunker (Freeman) that he blames. The film takes us to China and then London as far-fetched, boring heist sequences take place, and impossible-and-thus-boring magic tricks are shown. And we get an insufferable performance by Harrelson as the tanned and fro’d twin brother of his magician character.

 

This film is not fun. It is not exciting. It is not funny. The film is boring, annoying, groan-inducing, and it’s kind of insulting that the filmmakers both think this is entertaining and expect people to be okay exchanging money for the experience of watching this film. There is no reason for this movie to exist, other than to make money, and there is no reason for you to see this movie, other than to waste money and time. When a last minute message about privacy rights is shoehorned into the movie at the end, it is so quickly discarded that you wonder why they tried to put a message in at all (the first film at least dealt with financial crime in a more than passing manner).

 

It didn’t have to be this way. “Ocean’s 11 with Magicians” is a decent if ridiculous concept that could work a lot better than the first film (which was fun enough), and it sure as hell could work better than this film does. In a summer that has already been full of mediocre and disappointing films, “Now You See Me 2” has been the worst. D.

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