MOVIE BUFF-ET: Cast makes Now You See Me 2 a passable diversion


Now You See Me 2 reminded me of cotton candy. It looks tasty and fun, but once you try it, you find out it’s mostly air. Give the film one second of thought, and its believability begins to melt away like sugar on your tongue.

The only thing substantial about the sequel to the 2013 original is the cast. As logic-bending as the film may be Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Lizzy Kaplan, Dave Franco, Daniel Radcliff, Michael Cain and Morgan Freeman do have considerable charm, and their collective star power and acting chops makes director Jon M. Chu’s film a passable diversion.

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Ruffalo is always interesting, whether featured in higher-minded fare like the lead reporter in Spotlight or playing the perpetually angry alter ego of the Hulk in the Avengers flicks. He invests in his role of Dylan, a Columbo-like FBI agent, who is secretly or maybe not so secretly calling the shots for The Horsemen, a band of Robin Hood-like magicians, who not only dote on using their skills to entertain but also to expose corruption. That investment makes the character intriguing even with all the nonsense going on around him.

Eisenberg follows type as the egotistical Atlas, who isn’t sure if he wants to remain with The Horsemen, particularly under Dylan’s leadership. Franco is a master of sleight-of-hand and his skill with cards comes in handy with a heist scene in a metal-free clean room that is the most entertaining part of the film.

Harrelson is, well, Harrelson. You either like Woody or you don’t. He plays feuding twin brothers in the movie, which is more annoying than funny. Kaplan is the newcomer to the group, replacing Ilsa Fisher. She’s the character who proves to be quite capable while being underestimated by her teammates.

The Horseman are separated and on the lam, wanted for their capers in the original film, when Dylan finally calls them together to ferret out a Steve Jobs-type, who is selling his customer’s private information to the highest bidder.

Just as The Horsemen begin to shine a light on the tech inventor’s scummy machinations, we learn that The Horsemen have been set up by Radcliff’s junior version of a James Bond villain. Radcliff then blackmails the quartet into stealing a microchip that will allow him to break any sort of encryption.

Can The Horsemen thwart Radcliff and Cain’s evil plot before the FBI nabs the group? What’s Freeman’s role in all this? Is he simply out for revenge for being double-crossed in the original film or is something else going on? And is The Eye, an underground union of magicians, real or a myth?

The film answers all those questions, but the true question is if the film is strong enough for the audience to care? I doubt it. The magic gimmick made the original film somewhat fresh, but it’s not nearly as clever the second time around.

Grade: C-

Classics Corner

The Adventures of Robin Hood

If you’re going to take the time to stay inside during the summertime and watch a movie, it needs to be a great one, and The Adventures of Robin Hood certainly is that.

The 1938 film, directed by Michael Curtiz and William Keighley, starred Errol Flynn and his leading lady Olivia de Havilland as Robin of Locksley and Lady Marion in arguably their greatest pairing and absolutely Flynn’s best role.

If the film were made today, Flynn would be swashbuckling his way through numerous sequels with as much charm and charisma as Robert Downey Jr. is doing now for Marvel Studios as Iron Man, but with a ton more machismo. The Australian actor was born to play Robin Hood, and with him brandishing a swift blade and deftly nailing targets with his arrows, the film set the standard for action and adventure movies in the golden age of Hollywood.

Filmed in lush Technicolor, the movie is eye-popping as Flynn and his merry men rob from the rich to give to the poor, irking Prince John (Claude Rains) and Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone). Rathbone will be forever remembered for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, but he sizzles as Robin’s chief rival. The sword fight between Flynn and Rathbone is spectacular, perhaps the best ever committed to film.

The jaunty score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold won an Academy Award and is considered by many to be the one of the best ever composed. The movie also won Oscars for Best Film Editing and Best Film Design.

It’s a great movie for all ages with humor, action, and romance, but be warned, you might have to referee sword fights between your kids afterwards.