Now You See Me 2 ***

Sequel amps up the trickery, fun and craziness in all the best ways.

Is it worth $10? Yes

Morgan Freeman is in “Now You See Me 2,” and because everyone loves his voice the film opens and closes with him narrating the same phrase: “Seeing is believing, but is it truth? Depends on your perspective.”

The quote taps into the challenges and pleasures of movies (such as this) that are based on deception: The viewer knows he can’t trust what he’s seeing, and that there’s an ulterior motive, secret deal, and/or hidden motivation behind everything that appears on screen. Part of the fun is the guessing game of figuring out what they’re scheming, and the other part comes from the ingenuity and “wow” factor with what they pull off.

This sequel to “Now You See Me” (2013) is set 18 months after the first movie, and starts with Four Horsemen magicians Merritt (Woody Harrelson), Daniel (Jesse Eisenberg) and Jack (Dave Franco) laying low and taking orders from their leader, FBI Agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo). They’re soon joined by the perky and energetic Lula (newcomer to the series Lizzy Caplan), but their big comeback doesn’t go as planned and they wake up in Macau, China. Their kidnapper, the presumed dead Walter (Daniel Radcliffe), forces them to steal a powerful computer chip so he can tap into any electronic device in the world.

More does not need to be revealed about the plot; let it suffice to say that Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Woody Harrelson doing a Matthew McConaughey impression, and the entire city of London play major roles.

Director Jon Chu’s (“G.I. Joe: Retaliation”) challenge is in executing the trickery in a fun way that keeps us engaged and doesn’t seem completely ridiculous when explained at film’s end. In this he has succeeded. What’s interesting is that the “heist” elements – stealing an object, breaking into a building, impersonating others – are more engaging than the “magic” bits, and here’s why: We understand the heists and how they’re done, and can reasonably fantasize about pulling off something similar ourselves. The magic, however, isn’t always explained (how does Daniel disappear into a sidewalk? How does Lula make a bird fly out of a guy’s pants?), so sometimes we’re forced to suspend disbelief when the curious among us (like me) would really like to know how they do that!

As a whole, though, “Now You See Me 2” is clever and enjoyable, and the fact that it’s largely far-fetched and unrealistic is part of its charm. Do yourself a favor and don’t even bother trying to figure it out – just go along for the ride and smile.

Did you know?
Isla Fisher was one of the Four Horsemen in the first film; her character doesn’t appear here for reasons explained early on. In reality she didn’t return because she was pregnant.

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