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Review: “Now You See Me 2” (PG-13)

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L-R: Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Daniel Radcliffe, Lizzy Caplan, and Jesse Eisenberg in “Now You See Me 2”; Jay Maidment/Lionsgate(NEW YORK) — Now You See Me 2 is a magic trick unto itself. Using a slick aesthetic and world-class actors, director John M. Chu will undoubtedly trick some moviegoers into believing they’re seeing something with plot and substance.

I’m here to tell you, Now You See Me 2 has a ridiculous plot and almost no substance. It’s hard to even discern what this movie is about.

The Horsemen are back, except they’re down a horsewoman, as Isla Fisher has been replaced by Lizzy Caplan, whose quirky and engaging persona is one of this movie’s only bright spots.  Early in the story, there seems to be a coup d’état afoot: Jesse Eisenberg’s Daniel Atlas isn’t happy with the job Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) is doing, so Dylan has been secretly meeting with the mysterious magic organization The Eye.  Which seems like an inconsistent choice by, arguably, the franchise’s smartest character. It’s one of many inconsistencies in a movie that clearly doesn’t care about coherent storytelling.

Speaking of which: Dylan is still an FBI agent and still the Horsemen’s boss. He instructs the magicians to take down a young tech genius who’s about to introduce a new smartphone that Dylan and The Eye believe will be used for nefarious purposes — but it’s a trap. The Horsemen wind up in Macau, where they encounter Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), another tech genius who wants to force the Horsemen to steal a well-guarded piece of technology, a computer chip that can control every other computer chip in the world.

We also meet Merritt’s (Woody Harrelson) no-good twin brother, also played by Woody Harrelson. He works for Mabry and looks and sounds like Matthew McConaughey trying to impersonate Woody Harrelson. Really.

Mabry’s demand to have the gang steal the chip is a plot point designed to set up the movie’s best setpiece: a heist in which the gang uses slight of hand and slick card-tossing to steal the chip.

The absolute ridiculous nature of this movie is summed up in a scene in which Dylan — who becomes perhaps the most-wanted man in the country by law enforcement — is somehow able to walk into a prison, show a fake ID and walk out with Morgan Freeman’s Thaddeus Bradley.  That’s the moment my suspension of disbelief was suspended.

Now You See Me 2 is a bad movie. It’s one of those films that, as a critic, you SMH and then LOL at the chutzpah of filmmakers who so blatantly take advantage of less-than-discerning moviegoers. If you actually like to think about the movies you spend money to see, don’t think about seeing this movie.

Two out of five stars.

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