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Movie Review

The stage magicians known as the Four Horsemen are on the lam. Or at least they're keeping their cards hidden and their bunnies stashed for the time being.

No wonder: Their last performance featured something of a Robin Hood heist right in the middle of its flashy prestidigitations. And since that escapade, the group has been lying low in hopes that the FBI and the über-rich guy they swindled start looking in other directions.

When you love the spotlight and applause as much as this group does, though, you still long to dramatically wave your hand and conjure up an impressive illusion in public once again. So mentalist Merritt McKinney, nimble-fingered cardist Jack Wilder, magician J. Daniel Atlas and new female member, Lula, a chop-your-hand-off illusionist, seek out a new caper they can alakazam the world with.

They decide to hijack the launch of a new mobile phone that's set to steal the privacy of many a Tom, Dick and Harry. The villainous phone tycoon behind it all will surely be dazzled by the Horsemen and rue the day he decided to step on the little guys of the world.

But, oops, for all of their planning, that's not how the crowd-wowing stunt plays out.

Before you can say bibbidi-bobbidi-boo, the Four Horsemen themselves are "magically" swept off to China—captured and blackmailed by Walter Tressler, a millionaire baddie who's supposed to be dead. They'll need to perform a really big illusionary larceny for him if they ever hope to get back home.

Oh dear, what's a group of underground tricksters to do? How will they wriggle out of this Houdini-proof straightjacket?

Why, they'll pull off the biggest magic trick ever, of course.

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Positive Elements

Self-sacrifice shows up onstage from time to time as the Horsemen do things that show they care for one another. (Their grand gestures only go so far, I'll note.) They also have a desire to help the downtrodden while exposing the malevolent rich and powerful.

Spiritual Content

Atlas performs a trick involving a sprinkler system and strobe lights that he says even "God can't do." The Horsemen's moniker, of course, is a reference to Revelation's Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Sexual Content

Some female characters wear tops that reveal cleavage. Lula flirts repeatedly with Jack, and she talks about picturing each other naked to calm their stage nerves. They kiss at one point. Billionaire Arthur Tressler tells his son, Walter, that "there were so many women, I don't know whose bast--d you are."

Violent Content

FBI agent Dylan Rhodes is established early on as the unofficial "fifth Horseman," connected to the group through a mysterious organization called The Eye. In that role he encounters a number of situations where he's pummeled and battered. Thugs working for Tressler punch Dylan in the upper body and face, bloodying and bruising him. They also lock him in a safe that they dump into the ocean, nearly drowning him before he's rescued. (We see Dylan's father locked in a similar safe and drowned in flashback.)

Several characters on motorcycles fall off their bikes and tumble on the road. One of the bikes hits another vehicle and explodes. The Horsemen are beaten and thrown out of an airborne airplane.

Lula stages a pair of gory illusions, one in which she appears to saw off her hand with a meat slicer and another where she seems to guillotine her own head.

Crude or Profane Language

One f-word and six or seven s-words are joined by over a dozen uses of "h---" and a couple uses each of "d--n" and "a--." Jesus' and God's names are misused a half-dozen times (with "God" and "d--n" being combined once). A guy flips his middle finger at someone.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Arthur and Walter each drink a glass of champagne.

Other Negative Elements

The Horsemen break whatever rules or laws are necessary to perform their public stunts. Jack admits that he tends to steal from any girl who gets emotionally close to him. Someone's hair implants are compared to pubic hair.

Conclusion

If you've ever seen a magic act worth its abracadabra, you know it does two things well: It generally keeps its audience entertained with jokey patter and then surprises them with a visual dazzlement that leaves them grinning. That's what a local prestidigitator did before the press screening I attended for Now You See Me 2. He wandered the rows of theater seats performing little oh-my-goodness-how-did-that-happen card tricks and sleights-of-hand.

That introductory trickery was enjoyable.

The film it prefaced? Not so much.

While slightly less content-riddled than its predecessor, Now You See Me 2 is a big-budget sequel that packs a lot more ridiculous and pointless CGI flash up its cinematic sleeves than anything approaching artful maneuvering. The story tries to be smart but gets caught up so often in its own poorly plotted Chinese finger traps that it simply feels preposterous. There are plot holes here big enough to drive a herd of magic-hat bunnies through.

Make that a herd of irritating and generally foul-mouthed magic-hat bunnies.

By the time our screening audience had sat through more than two hours of this stuff, I'm sure there were many, like me, who wished that the local magic guy had done a few more tricks. You know, like one that makes the movie reviewer disappear.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults

Credits

Rating

PG-13

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Jesse Eisenberg as J. Daniel Atlas; Mark Ruffalo as Dylan Rhodes; Woody Harrelson as Merritt McKinney; Lizzy Caplan as Lula; Dave Franco as Jack Wilder; Daniel Radcliffe as Walter; Morgan Freeman as Thaddeus Bradley; Michael Caine as Arthur Tressler

Distributor

Lionsgate, Summit Entertainment

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

June 10, 2016

On Video

September 6, 2016

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Bob Hoose

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