Entertaining? Yes. Brilliant? No. But, it is tight and relentless in pace and builds on the original. Of course, that is part of the issue: it builds too much on the original story. Solomon, who co-wrote Now You See Me, relied too heavily on the previous script when he should have just built out a completely or substantially new plot. By sticking with the first storyline, he was forced to push into the absurd in both motivation and plot size. What made the first so much fun was how (just barely) believable it was.
All magic is based on visual misdirection and patter (vocal misdirection). And this movie, like its prequel, attempts to be one long magic trick. Instead it ends up part trick, part cheat, and part Mission Impossible, thanks to the plot choices. It is unfortunate, because the emotional part of the story is fairly thin and transparent, the action part of the story feels forced and faked, and few of the surprises are, well, surprises. There are also at least two major flaws/cheats in the film that are either not explained or purposefully filmed as a lie, but from the wrong POV. I won’t go into what, either you’ll notice or you won’t, and that’s fine. I shouldn’t be the one to ruin it for you.
The cast, in majority, returned for this next heist. Jesse Eisenberg (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), Mark Ruffalo (Infinitely Polar Bear), and Dave Franco (The Lego Movie) all carry forward nicely. I found Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex) a bit off-key in this group, and not very credible as the newest Horseman and magician. And Woody Harrelson (True Detective), while fine in his original role was somewhat absurd as his own twin. Opposed to them, Daniel Radcliffe (Victor Frankenstein) did fine with what he had, but the role did him no favors.
I do also have to say that this sequel wasn’t good enough to rinse the taste of director John Chu’s previous Jem and the Holograms from my entertainment taste buds. He still has a long way to go by way of apology for that one. He drove over all the holes in this story by moving more quickly than you had time to object. A magician’s trick to be sure, but the pay off wasn’t as satisfying as it should have been given the set-up and the cadre of characters he had to work with. Other franchises have come back from sophomore slumps worse than this, and I’d like to see these characters have another shot. As long as it is a wholly new story, they might have a chance to try.