The sequel to the 2013 magic and mystery caper left me feeling more like "now I don't." While I did see some good things in the movie, there were a lot of things I wanted to see, but did not. Like a magic act itself, key elements seemed to just disappear throughout the film.
The first and most obvious for me was missing characters. The original female horseman Henley (Isla Fisher) was not in the sequel, which made me a little disappointed. The new female horseman Lula (Lizzy Caplan) added a unique and fresh element to the group, but was missing the overall gravitas that Henley had in the first movie.
The writers spent most of the movie having Lula fight against gender roles, compared to Henley, who commanded the respect of the others, and took her importance and place within the group in the first movie without question.
Also missing was the beautiful Interpol agent Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent), with no explanation to her whereabouts or departure from the story line.
To contradict the disappearing act of these two favorite characters, we had the appearance of several new characters, Jay Chou and Tsai Chin in the roles of magicians in China, Daniel Radcliffe as a back-from-the-dead millionaire, and Sanaa Lathan as the Deputy Director Natalie Austin.
These characters were superbly acted, even though the directing seemed lukewarm at best. The characters were believable, but did not stand out the way that they could, and should have.
The nail in the coffin
Now to my biggest problem with the movie that sealed its fate in my opinion; the gaping plot loophole, and misconceived idea of adding a twin brother named Chase to horseman Merritt McKinny's character.
This involved Woody Harrelson, who plays McKinny, donning an atrocious wig and playing an overly exaggerated and effeminate character as Chase. His performance is neither entertaining nor interesting, but simply awkward.
I kept waiting for Chase to be a double-agent, to help the horseman out of trouble, to be a plant in the enemy camp, or at the end of the movie, reveal that they had actually switched places, but no such thing ever happened.
There was no reason for that character to be in this film at all. Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) even performs a magic trick using twins or "doubles" in the film. So I thought surely that was a wink to the audience, cluing us in to why they had written for Chase to be in league with the bad guys, but no such luck.
Like a magic trick itself, the plot line of Chase left us with nothing but air wondering how, and most importantly why that idea ever made it into, and ultimately ruined the film.
Overall, this movie has short term entertainment value, with fun characters, superb special effects, exciting locations, and magician lore; but if you were a fan of the first movie, you may end up feeling a little cheated. The writers clearly could not read the fans' minds, and no amount of trickery was going to hypnotize us into thinking this movie was even close to comparing with the first.