Monday, June 13, 2016

House of Not-So-Magical Cards

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Remembering Orlando
Louis Leterrier’s 2013 magicians-as-Robin Hood con/caper movie ‘Now You See Me’ was a rather enjoyable popcorn flick and international box office hit despite its unbelievable smoke-and-mirrors set-ups, convoluted plot and lukewarm critical reviews, largely thanks to its likeable ensemble cast led by Mark Ruffalo, Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher and Dave Franco.  It is only a matter of time that we see ‘Now You See Me 2.’  Subbing for the pregnant Fisher as the team’s obligatory female member is Lizzy Caplan (‘The Interview,’ ‘Masters of Sex’), as our team of magicians known as the “Four Horsemen” take on a new adventure orchestrated by disgraced and incarcerated debunker-of-magic Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman).  Or did he?  In the world of NYSM you're never quite sure who’s pulling the strings and who’s setting up whom. 

Some 12 months after the events that transpired in the first film, the Horsemen suddenly find themselves exposed, on the run and “magically” transported to Macau.  If anything, the plot of NYSM2 is even more preposterous, twisty and hard to believe than its predecessor’s, involving an intricate scheme by a young tech guru (Daniel Radcliffe) to steal a smart phone chip that could mine personal data without the end users’ permission or knowledge.  The Horsemen must once again, through their ingenuity and prowess in deception, navigate danger and find a way to outsmart Harry Potter, which of course they manage to do all the while making the FBI pursuing them look like Keystone Cops.

Alas, this lackluster follow-up is so far-fetched and lazy in execution that it stretches our suspension of disbelief beyond the breaking point and ultimately collapses under the weight of incredulity like a house of cards.  It is a tired and trite sequel which lacked the fun and freshness that gave the original its exuberance and sense of wonder, and is akin to watching a magic show where you only see the big reveal but not the sleight-of-hand that leads to the oohs and aahs, leaving you with a feeling as thin and insubstantial as dissipating smoke.

Grade: C-

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