Now You See Me was a bit of a surprise hit back in 2013, earning $333 million worldwide on a $75 million budget. Combining a unique premise with a varied, appealing cast, the film not only got people to the theater but gave them an enjoyable experience once they got there. Most of the time, even though people constantly say how much they wish for “original” films, whenever something fresh hits theaters, general audiences stay away. But, directed by Louis Leterrier, Now You See Me had enough mainstream appeal that it carried a sense of safety and familiarity with it alongside its imaginative narrative.
Now, the majority of the principal cast returns, alongside fledgling director Jon M. Chu, for another wild caper in Now You See Me 2. Interestingly enough, it opens in America alongside another sequel to a well-received overachiever in The Conjuring 2. It will be fun to compare both the weekend and final hauls of the two pictures when all is said and done.
I’ve always been a little surprised that magician-based movies aren’t more prevalent. Off the top of my head, I can only think of a handful. The best of the bunch is easily Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige, which is a merciless mind-bender that hits the viewer in the face with perplexing ethical implications that no one would have otherwise thought to consider. An overlooked work of genius, that one. The Great Buck Howard, starring John Malkovich and Colin Hanks was another fun one. And, other than the Now You See Me films, the only one I can think of is The Illusionist, which was a chore of a film that gets a free pass from many because it stars Edward Norton.
But I’m not here to talk about those. The matter at hand is how Now You See Me 2 lives up to the reputation of its predecessor. Along for the ride, this time, is Lizzy Caplan’s Lulu. Replacing Isla Fisher’s Henley, Caplan brings a welcome aura of enthusiasm and lightheartedness to an already-fun universe. Daniel Radcliffe joins in the fun as well as Walter Mabry. Radcliffe continues to work hard to establish himself as Daniel Radcliffe and not Harry Potter. You’re not there yet, Daniel, but keep going! It will happen for you! (That was me pretending that Daniel Radcliffe is reading this. In the spirit of the movie, please don’t shatter the illusion for me.)
I’m especially glad that I went in only knowing that I was about to see the follow-up to a movie that I enjoyed from three years ago. Not being clued in on any of the story details allowed me to be fully swept up in the roller coaster that is Now You See Me 2. I’ll say nothing other than that a challenger steps up to challenge the Four Horsemen for their title as the world’s greatest magician(s) and what follows is an exciting, thrilling game of one-upsmanship that’s even more unpredictable than the original film. One scene, in particular, is the most inventive scene I’ve watched on my 2016 March to 100. I was lacking self-awareness in the moment but I imagine I was smiling through the whole thing. You will, too.
This film and franchise is a perfect go-to for anyone who’s looking for something light and fun to help them escape from reality. It does require an attention span as, like the initial installment, the dialogue and story are sharp and unrelenting. But, when it comes right down to it, Now You See Me 2 is the kind of crowd-pleasing movie that general audiences tend to look for. At the same time, the cast, dialogue, and character development offers more beneath the surface for cinephiles to enjoy, as well. There’s really no good reason to avoid this one, unless you haven’t seen the first one. In which case, see the first one then go enjoy this one. Otherwise, I don’t want to hear you complaining about the “lack of originality in Hollywood”.