Magic Mike XXL

Directed by:  Gregory Jacobs

Starring: Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello, Jada Pinkett Smith, Matt Bomer, Adam Rodriguez, Kevin Nash, Amber Heard, Stephen Boss

A few years ago, I reviewed Magic Mike.  It is difficult to capture the experience of seeing that film on opening weekend—the lines of women, the excited whispers, the cheers and the jeers.  It is an event.  I knew that I had to take my Magic Mike XXL experience up a notch.  So I went to see the sequel with friends at an iPic theater, complete with pillows, blankets, and a waitress serving us margaritas and truffle fries.  Suffice it to say, a good time was had by all.  Friends, booze and half-naked guys—what’s not to like?

Three years ago, Mike (Channing Tatum) hung up his G-string and left his life as a stripper behind him.  He started his own furniture business and tried to build a life with his girlfriend.  Unfortunately, running a business has proven to be quite difficult.  Mike is barely making ends meet and cannot afford to provide his lone employee with health insurance.  To make matters worse, he proposed to his girlfriend and she turned him down.  Suffice it to say, Mike is in a rut.

In the midst of this, Mike receives a call that Dallas (Matthew McConaughey) has passed away.  Mike goes to meet his old friends to attend the wake and discovers that it was just a ruse to get him to a party.  Dallas is alive, but he abandoned the old stripper team and took one of the other strippers abroad.  Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello), Tarzan (Kevin Nash), Ken (Matt Bomer) and Tito (Adam Rodriguez) have essentially been laid off.  However, the guys want to go out in a blaze of glory before they move on to regular “9 to 5” jobs.  Big Dick Richie decides that they should travel to a stripper convention in Myrtle Beach and perform one last time. (Sidebar: stripper conventions are actually a real thing.  Who knew?).  Initially, Mike is reluctant, as he has moved on from his prior life.  But Mike decides to join the gang on the road trip and head to the convention.  Along the way, they get into all sorts of shenanigans, and Mike reconnects with a former boss/love interest Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith).

Overall, Magic Mike XXL is a fun movie.  The sequel strikes a much lighter tone than the original film.  With Steven Soderbergh at the helm, the original film was heavy and focused on the seedy, toxic nature of the stripper underworld.  Matthew McConaughey was a perfectly sketchy, narcissist, and the film had a dark tone.  With a new director and a trimmed cast, Magic Mike XXL focuses heavily on the camaraderie between Tatum, Mangianello, and the rest of the cast.  Jokes abound in the film; Tatum is as charming as ever; the cast seems to be having fun, and the audience joins in. Moreover, the addition of new characters, like Jada Pinkett Smith and Stephen “Twitch” Boss adds something fresh and interesting to the film.  McConaughey’s performance was so memorable that going a totally different route with Pinkett Smith as a female MC was a smart decision.

However, the sequel makes the same mistake as its predecessor: the director spends too much time on plot, and not enough time showing actual scenes of men stripping. Magic Mike XXL is essentially a road trip movie, and there is a substantial amount of time spent with the guys travelling to the convention.  In fact, Tatum and his crew do not strip on stage until the last 15 minutes of the movie.  Ironically, the film’s characters spend a substantial amount of time talking about what women want and female fantasies.  Yet, they fail to understand what the women going to see these movies want.  We do not want an extensive plot.  We want to go out with our girlfriends and see a lot of exotic dancing without actually going to a strip club.  We want to see Channing Tatum in more than one solo routine.  Tatum was a stripper—unleash him!  Further, with the plot being so much lighter in tone and substance than the original film, at a certain point, the film loses steam and seems to lack direction.

Don’t get me wrong, the film has plenty of fun moments.  Manganiello has an incredibly fun scene in a market dancing to the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way.”  Michael Strahan strips down to gold, laminated bikini underwear and does some unspeakable acts.  (Some things you cannot “unsee”).   Matt Bomer sings D’Angelo’s “How Does It Feel” and strips.  Channing Tatum has a scene at a house party that will literally take your breath away.  Tatum’s moves are so impressive that he sparked squeals and a round of applause in my theater. And the final dance scene with Tatum and Stephen “Twitch” Boss is mind-blowing.  If Jacobs had given us just a bit more dancing and less male camaraderie, I would have rated this film a little higher.

Magic Mike XXL earns a 0.06% rating.  It is not a serious film.   However, it is a fun movie to see with your best girlfriends.