Now You See Me 2 is the cinematic equivalent of dry toast. It is the sequel to 2013's Now You See Me, a movie that audiences applauded, but nobody in their wildest imagination would have thought could or should be turned into a franchise. The third installment is already on schedule, with director John M. Chu slated to direct that one as well. If they are going to continue making these movies, hopefully they will involve a bit more magic than they did this time. Now You See Me 2 is as magical as an 8 Ball.   

Now You See Me 2

After shocking the world in the previous installment, the group known as “The Four Horseman” have returned with their Robin Hood meets David Blaine meets TED Talks-style of magic. They are- Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), and the newly added female presence of Lula (Lizzy Caplan). Their show is fronted by Dylan Rhodes (played by a surprisingly boring Mark Ruffalo), the son of a magician, who works for the FBI, and also plays the pseudo-manager of the horseman. The collective group does all of this under the watch of the mysterious “eye”.

Now if you didn't see the first NYSM, don't fear, as magician debunker Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) catches us up on all that happened before. The groups magical chaos left Thaddeus in prison and made the foursome wanted criminals. For their next trick, they attempt to take down an Edward Snowden-type surveillance entrepreneur, only it back-fires. The trick has been played on them, as they mysteriously find themselves in Macau, China in front of wealthy, off-the-grid tech-wiz Walter Mabry (a bright and plucky Daniel Radcliffe). He wants to use the magicians to pull off a heist of a secure facility which contains a microchip. Together, the group must bond and become a team or become the next Burt Wonderstone's.

Director Jon M. Chu (Jem and the Holograms)  has the stage set with his cast, yet sequences feel like a bunch of celebrities standing around waiting for their cue to prove they know what magic is. The screenplay from Ed Solomon and Pete Chiarelli is an uneventful progression, trying desperately to be smart, while failing to elevate with intrigue or raise the stakes of their large scale magic tricks. The microchip heist involves passing of the card, in a cool, slight of hand trick-version of hot potato. This is the films only high point. I found myself waiting for moments to be elaborate schemes or magic tricks, and when one builds with anticipation, each reveal delivered less...and what you get is Now You See Me 2. Caplan injects much needed humor, while Harrelson has fun with a twin brother character, which is some of the more awkward moments of any 2016 movie.

Now You See Me 2 keeps you in the audience because you paid for a ticket and you hope to see some magic. Unfortunately, that never really happens. I couldn't even tell you what other movies compare to this film because it feels like a collection of cooperated speaking engagements (the fore mentioned TED Talks, New Years Eve, or Town Halls) where the producers could film on locations for eventful fake magic. We never, at any point, truly become entertained by it all. NYSM2 fails to include the thrill of the chase that the first film had, while also forgetting that you need to include actual moments of MAGIC to wow your audience. It's not even close to being one of the worst movies of the year, it's just so forgettable, I am not even sure if I saw it. Maybe I was hypnotized?

1 ½ Stars 

Written by: Leo Brady​