(US/China - 2016)
Directed by Jon M. Chu. Written by Ed Solomon. Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Dave Franco, Daniel Radcliffe, Lizzy Caplan, Jay Chou, Sanaa Lathan, David Warshofsky, Tsai Chin, Ben Lamb, Richard Laing. (PG-13, 129 mins)
Sure, 2013's enjoyable NOW YOU SEE ME was a sleeper hit, grossing $120 million in the US, but was anyone demanding more? Apparently so, as it did almost double that overseas. In what will go down as one of the least necessary sequels of the year, the thoroughly superfluous, $90 million NOW YOU SEE ME 2 isn't even inspired enough to be subtitled NOW YOU DON'T, and is the kind of perfunctory, clock-punching follow-up that makes you retroactively like the first one a little less. That film was directed by Luc Besson protege Louis Leterrier, a sure-handed pro who kept the story engaging and fast-moving, and really conveyed a knowledge and appreciation of magic. In the hands of STEP UP 2: THE STREETS, STEP UP 3D and JUSTIN BIEBER: NEVER SAY NEVER director Jon M. Chu, whose most recent film is 2015's flop-turned-inevitable-cult-movie JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS, NOW YOU SEE ME 2's chief goal seems to be how many nonsensical dei ex machina it can pull out of its ass like rabbits out of a hat. NOW YOU SEE ME had the magician team of The Four Horsemen using their skills to bankrupt greedy and corrupt insurance titan Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine), whose company denied claims to scores of Hurricane Katrina victims. Tressler figures into the second half of this sequel in a way that you'll figure out long before the Four Horsemen do, but initially, the heroes--illusionist J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), hypnotist Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) and presumed-dead street magician Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), along with new addition Lula May (Lizzy Caplan)--have been in hiding, but are called back to public view at the behest of The Eye, the top-secret society of magicians. Their assignment: expose tech billionaire Owen Case (Ben Lamb) as a fraud intending to use his software to steal the personal info of millions of his customers and sell it on the black market. But someone else hijacks their presentation, also publicly outing rogue FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), who's still pretending to pursue the Four Horsemen for the benefit of his boss (Sanaa Lathan), even though he was revealed to be the enigmatic Fifth Horsemen at the end of the first film.