at the movies: now you see me 2

(Now with 100% fewer gross grammatical errors!)

Nobody is more surprised than I am to discover that this blog has been going on long enough that I am now reviewing the sequels to movies I wrote about here some time ago.   Read my review of the original Now You See Me here and see if I’ve gotten any better at it.

This was a Dental Emergency Movie Day, which is why I was at the Cinemark on a Tuesday to see a movie that wasn’t very good, but which I enjoyed very much anyway.

Everybody who knows me knows I love good junk.  Art doesn’t have to be enlightening, uplifting, profound, or even very creative to be fun to be around.  Sometimes all that’s required of entertainment is that it be entertaining and not actively offensive.  A good summer movie is definitely in the latter category. My review is behind the cut, but that’s only because of the length; there are no spoilers to speak of and fans of the series, the actors involved or just movie opinions are encouraged to read.

Now You See Me 2 is of course the sequel to Now You See Me, which was the story of the formation of The Horsemen, a four person gang of stage magicians who arrange heists and reveals to expose villains and redistribute their ill gotten wealth.  In this film the Horsemen reunite (with one change in the cast and an eventual addition) and continue their campaign of  telling truth to power via lavish show business, while learning more about The Eye, the mysterious historical organization that may be manipulating their actions.

There are the usual set pieces of clever, sometimes very large scale magic tricks and scams, which are vast, sloppy, brilliant, and occasionally unrealistic even in the context of this kind of Hollywood over-the-topness.  And there is a plot that advances in more or less exactly the same way.  The rest of it is character stuff, writing (much of it pretty bad), and a gorgeous glossy look that is excellent in its own way.

The character stuff includes a new character, Lula, who is the replacement “girl Horseman”.  And yes, she calls herself that, acknowledging the inherent sexism of this kind of movie, which maybe doesn’t help the situation much but at least shows some kind of surface awareness of the issue.  Played by Lizzy Caplan, Lula is a much more interesting person than the character she replaces, coarse, funny, and smart.  Her bit with the electric carving knife is one of the funniest parts of the film, and her little romance with the youngest Horseman does wonders for his character.

And of course, there is Mark Ruffalo.  He is a much, much better actor than this movie needs or deserves, but his character, unlike the others, actually has a little bit of an arc and he is clearly having fun with the part.  (And if you are a member of that very distinct portion of the moviegoing audience who finds Mr. Ruffalo extremely attractive, be advised that he is at his scruffy, worldly, man-who-has-seen-things best here.)

The writing can be sprightly enough in casual dialog, but whenever the writers start to take themselves seriously and write “speeches” things take a turn for the clunky, and occasionally venture into laughably ponderous.  This, oddly enough, results in the best scene in the film– the one where Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine are sitting in the back seat of a car trading some of the worst lines ever and having a wonderful time hamming it up while they do it.  It’s worth the price of admission to see these two old war horses chew the scenery at other.

The gorgeous look of the film is evenly split between magic shows and travelogs is at its best when the action moves to Macao.  Clearly designed to appeal to a Chinese audience it may be, but these scenes are wonderfully evocative and interesting to look at.  The old magic shop in particular is one of the best settings I’ve seen in a film in a long time.

And finally, two notes.

  • Warning, this film contains, the corniest, silliest example of an actor playing a dual role since the sterling work of the late Patty Duke.
  • I was extremely surprised that I wasn’t spoiled by the extended cameo by a very famous young actor.  I won’t reveal his name here in case you want to see the movie.

 

 

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