Step 1: Realize some of the original magic has been lost in Now You See Me 2, but it provides a requisite amount of fun when it needs to.
Step 2: Set up the trick. The story takes place one year after the Four Horseman pulled off their big trick and exposed the big bad businessman, Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) for all his greediness, and spread his wealth to the masses. They are now awaiting instructions from the all-powerful Eye so they can come out of hiding and start doing their Robin Hood magic again on stage. Leader Daniel (Jesse Eisenberg) is the one most chomping at the bit and almost ready to just chuck the anonymity and go out on his own. Actually, Henly (Isla Fisher) already did that. She couldn’t wait anymore, and now she’s gone. But hypnotist Merritt (Woody Harrelson) and card-shark Jack (Dave Franco) are still around, and they are joined by quippy newcomer Lula (Lizzy Caplan), who is a breath of fresh air in this quartet. Dylan (Mark Ruffalo) is still working both ends, as a FBI agent trying to keep the bureau off the Horsemen’s trail but also keeping the Horsemen in check with The Eye
Step 3: Watch things go off the rails. When the Horsemen are finally allowed to appear again, this time to take down a tech millionaire, whose invented a chip that can spy on any device or computer anyway, but it turns out they are set up by one Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe) who exposes Dylan and wants them to steal the chip. Lots of other twists and turns happen after that, including Daniel’s supposed nemesis Thaddeus (Morgan Freeman) and Arthur’s return, but to give too much else away would spoil it.
Step 4: Get a crew that works. The camaraderie with the returning cast still works, with the pleasant addition of Caplan, who really takes the “female” role in a whole new, spunky direction. Her Lula is a snarky trickster who has a real knack for cutting off her body parts and for proving she’s actually better than the guys – and she unabashedly has the hots for Jack. Also good is Radcliffe as the smart-ass Walter, who fancies himself a magician but isn’t very good at it. He’s a fun sort of villain for awhile, until his path converges with Arthur; then it falls flat. Oh, and Merritt ends up getting a nemesis as well – his twin brother (also Harrelson), wearing a bad perm wig and big teeth. Not sure why this character is even needed in the scheme of things, and Woody plays him embarrassingly over the top.
Step 5: Wonder what’s missing. The true element of surprise that the original delivered seems to lacking in Now You See Me 2. Watching the Four Horsemen pull off their tricks in the original made it stand out as fun, thrilling adventure tale. The characters zinged, and you couldn’t really see the fascinating twists coming. In the sequel, however, the magic has faded and just not as badass. While the characters still connect in a fun way and there are some great scenes of them doing their stuff, the story falters and the twists aren’t that compelling. Unfortunately, Now You See Me 2 doesn’t offer anything really new.