Director Steven Soderbergh and star/producer Channing Tatum’s semi-biographical infectiously shlocky male stripper fest Magic Mike may have been a big hit at the box office (I’m guessing they were paid in a mountain of sodden $1 bills) but there were still lots of people – I’m looking at you, fellow hetero males – who refused to watch a bunch of dudes taking their clothes off. Their irrational deathly fear of Tatum’s exposed buttcheeks meant that they missed out on a fun and self-aware dramedy with surprising emotional depth and charm. Also washboard abs as far as the eyes can ogle.
And when it comes to long-in-development sequel Magic Mike XXL not much will probably have changed. At least for the naysayers and their personal restrictions. This sequel still boasts more than enough man-flesh, as Tanning’s eponymous Mike and his poster boy crew get jiggy with it in various scenes and states of inebriation, to keep the eye candy seekers happy, but now finds itself lacking a bit of heart underneath those well-defined pecs.
Whether as a result of Soderbergh passing the director’s hat to long-time cohort and Magic Mike first-assistant director Greg Jacobs (Soderbergh still hung around as DOP though), or the fact that this film’s script from returning writer Reid Carolin is now completely fictional instead of drawing on Tatum’s own real life experiences as a young male stripper like the first film did, there’s a definite lack of auteur polish here that results in a movie that may still often entertain and titillate but offers very little else in terms of dramatic weight. Somehow I suspect that this will not be too much of a problem for a large portion of the audience though.
With a narrative through-line that has the structural integrity of a pair of shiny spandex rip-away shorts, Magic Mike XXL is more of a series of vignettes and character beats that one proper three-act story. The hook here sees Mike running the tiny custom-made furniture company he dreamed of after having hung up the thong at the end of the first film three years ago. But when the old Kings of Tampa show up in town again, on their way to a final performance at a big stripper convention before they also call it a day, all it takes is one listen to his jam, “Pony” – which prompts some very creative use of power tools – and Mike is back on the bus with the guys for one last hurrah. Cue shenanigans filled road trip!
And really… that’s the movie. Along the way we briefly find out that Mike’s previous love interest Brooke (played by Cody Horn in the first film) left him high and dry for reasons that the movie has no intention of examining, and that Matthew McConaughey’s group leader Dallas has deserted the rest of the group, taking Alex Pettyfer’s “The Kid” with him. This gives rise to the rest of the disgruntled Kings, with some prodding from both Mike and some recreational pharmaceuticals, finally deciding to step out of Dallas’ tassled shadow and creating their own dance routines that truly reflect their personalities, in the process finding themselves: elder Tarzan (Kevin Nash) wants to be a painter, Tito (Adam Rodriguez) just wants to run his artisanal frozen yogurt business, esoteric pretty boy Ken (Matt Bomer) regrets giving up his singing and acting dreams, while Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello) is just hoping to find a true love that will accept him. ALL of him, if you know what I mean.
Manganiello and Bomer get bumped up to equally shared screen time with Tatum, and the two carry the extra load well with Manganiello pulling off a few of the movie’s most memorable laugh out loud moments. Tatum continues to be a human charm generator, still standing out in a very likeable central cast. Along the way Jada Pinket Smith also shows up as some big deal emcee, but the movie seems to think she’s way more impressive than her lacklustre ring announcer skills imply. Amber Heard also rears her pretty head as not much more than a pretty head for Mike to make googly eyes with.
The biggest highlights of the movie come in the Kings’ unmistakable camaraderie and the film’s dance sequences, the latter of which have either seriously (no pun intended) stepped up in the choreography game taking advantage of Tatum’s undeniably skilled feet, or had the guys dial the sexuality up to 11 (Well, most of the guys as the less said about Tarzan’s absurd “artist” number the better). One particular boy band scored routine performed by Manganiello in front of a Pepsi soda fridge is sure to get some audience members all fizzy.
“We’re healers,” franchise newcomer Donald Glover’s relatively puny but soulful Andre posits to his action-figure physiqued bros during one of the film’s attempts to wax philosophical, but I have a feeling that these male entertainers would probably be far more likely to cause cardiac issues than remedy them with their gyrations. And if the latter is all that you want from this movie then not only is it perfectly alright, but it’s also something that Magic Mike XXL delivers on. Expect more than just some bromantic comedy and sexed up dance moves though, and you won’t find this sequel quite as magical as its predecessor.
Last Updated: July 3, 2015