The 2013 surprise hit Now You See Me was refreshing and fun and made lots of money for Lionsgate/Summit, so it’s no surprise that it has spawned a franchise with the arrival of the cleverly titled Now You See Me 2If the movie magic that made the first one stand out has vanished with the new edition basically repeating much of the formula, the concept of a team of Vegas magicians called The Four Horsemen, out to stop bad guys with abracadabara style, is so appealing the results are almost as much fun as the original – if a great deal more convoluted. Forget trying to figure out all the various plot twists and sleight of hand served up by director Jon M. Chu and screenwriter Ed Solomon and just go with it. Putting magic on the screen isn’t easy, since we are so used to the “magic” of visual effects anyway.

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What the movie has going for it, as the first one did, is an appealing cast with great chemistry, and fortunately they are all back with the exception of Isla Fisher, but she’s not missed as new member of the Four Horsemen Lizzy Caplan (Masters Of Sexmore than makes up for the female card played here. In fact she’s a total delight and a key asset to a cast that includes Jesse Eisenberg, Dave Franco and Woody Harrelson, the latter having a blast playing two roles this time including a devious twin brother who shows up when the quartet is hijacked (don’t ask how) to Macau, the Asian version of Vegas. In addition to The Four Horsemen, crooked insurance tycoon Michael Caine is back for more abuse, as is Morgan Freeman’s Magic spoiler Thaddeus Bradley, who skillfully keeps us guessing about Bradley’s ultimate plans which are murky at best. Then there is the return of their secret leader Dylan Rhodes, played again by Mark Ruffalo, whose ultimate cover as an FBI agent on their trail is coming under unusual scrutiny by his colleagues (Sanaa Latham and David Warshofsky).

Rhodes had kept the group in mothballs after the initial mission of stopping Thaddeus Bradley, but they are brought back now, thrust into another deadly game of using every trick up their sleeve to thwart the corrupt dealings of an evil Silicon Valley corporate boss played by Daniel Radcliffe, a sniveling little character who wants his all-powerful computer chip back in the worst way. The best sequence in the whole movie, even as ludicrous as it is, is when the Horsemen must enter an air tight, impossible to scale facility undetected with the chip, now disguised in the form of a playing card. Visually this sequence really is pure movie magic, as our heroes flip it covertly from one to another. It’s not really believable, but thanks to Chu’s imaginative direction the choreography of it is dazzling to watch. Visits to Macau’s oldest magic shop (with Asian character actress Tsai Chin stealing the scenes) are also loads of fun, but it is the interaction between this group that makes the bulk of the frenetic action work.

Producers are Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Bobby Cohen. Famed Magician David Copperfield is a co-producer, so you can probably count on some of these tricks being the real deal. Lionsgate goes out wide with it today.

Do you plan to see Now You See Me 2 ?  Let us know what you think.