Bigger, longer, uncut. And I’m not even talking about the movie itself.
A few years after Magic Mike (Channing Tatum) left his fellow stripper bros in Tampa, he’s struggling a bit to say the least. Sure, he finally got his dream job of owning his own custom furniture company, but can’t even afford to pay his one employee’s insurance, and not to mention, is living all by himself after his girlfriend (Cody Horn), left him because she “just wasn’t ready yet”. Eventually, the Kings of Tampa reach out to Mike and ask him if they’ll come along and join them as they travel from Tampa to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for their last show before they bow out and get on with their real lives. Mike’s hesitant at first, but he soon gives in and realizes that the trip’s going to a lot harder to complete than he expected; problems arise, women come and go, and friendships are maintained. However, what Mike wants to do the most is break away from what his old boss, Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), made him and the guys do. Instead, he wants to dance, shake, jive and strip the way he and his boys know how – it just takes a little creativity is all.
No matter how many people got on my case about it, I never tried to get the past that I actually quite enjoyed Magic Mike – or, as it was known back in the summer of 2012, “the male stripper movie”. Sure, it was filled with half-naked dudes, dry-humping, and dancing on top and/or around women, but because Steven Soderbergh was attached to it, it was surprisingly something more. While it was definitely a movie that featured males stripping to their skivvies for money, it was also a smart tale about growing up in the U.S. and living the American Dream anyway that one person can. Some prefer to work boring 9 to 5, whereas others prefer to get nearly naked for all sorts of women throwing dollar bills at them left and right.
With Magic Mike XXL, it’s less about the actual American Dream and more about the dream of, “man, being a male-stripper would be kind of cool”.
Because Soderbergh isn’t around this time again to direct (he does shoot the thing, as you can plainly tell in each and every shot), the movie feels more like it wants to be just a good time, without all that much thinking having to be done in the process. And that’s fine because director Gregory Jacobs understands that most of the people who come to see Magic Mike (see, not critics), may not care about whether or not there’s a heartfelt, compelling story about the human condition placed underneath – he knows that people will just want to see these guys dance, take their clothes off, and look buff as hell. Nothing wrong with that, honestly, it’s just a bit of a disappointment considering that the first one was actually a bit of a surprise by how much it sort of went against its target-audience; something most love and appreciate Soderbergh for.
But like I said, this isn’t a Soderbergh movie and even though the whole story of Magic Mike may not be as deep as the first, it’s still a bunch of fun to watch. The stripping scenes, as predicted, are a lot of fun but seem as if they’re more ridiculous and extreme this time around. That the plot is centered around these guys going on some sort of road trip, we’re now able to peak into all of these neat, little worlds where these guys can sometimes excel. We get to check out a drag club, a mainly African American club, a huge house filled with rich, older women, and, believe it or not, an actual convention for male strippers.
Highly doubt those exist, but for this point in time, I’ll let it all slide.
And with these new set-pieces, Jacobs gets his chance to light the screen up with as much crazy, over-the-top stuff as he wants, and it all makes sense. The art (or in this case, I guess lack thereof) of male-stripping is that you get as wild and as sexxed-up as you possibly can be, because the crazier and more fun you are, the more tips get hurled at you from incredibly horny women. Because male-stripping is such a wacky occupation to have secured in the first place, Jacobs finds himself in a safe place where he can go the extra mile with all of these stripping-sequences, and still be considered “believable”. I’m definitely sure that Jacobs and the rest of his crew weren’t wholly aiming for that element to the story, but it’s the little attributes like that, that help certain movies such as this all the more entertaining to watch.
Also, it helps that you have a solid cast to help work things out, which Magic Mike XXL does, and then some. Considering that Channing Tatum was basically playing a slightly heightened version of himself in the original, it’s no shock that C-Tates plays Mike this time around, the exact same way as before. He’s cool with the ladies, a good dancer, and all around bro that likes to party, but also wants a little more out of life than just fine women, fine cars, fine booze, and fine parties. Sure, we’ve seen Tatum challenged a whole heck of a lot more in the past couple years, but in all honesty, that doesn’t matter considering he’s fine as is here.
Now, when I first heard about Magic Mike XXL, I was very disappointed (but not too shocked) at the fact that neither Matthew McConaughey, Cody Horn, or Alex Pettyfer would be returning to their original roles here. While most of them are surely missed, the movie still does a fine enough job of filling up their roles, even if too manipulatively so. Though Horn isn’t here as Mike’s girlfriend, Amber Heard is sent in to pick up the pieces as a hipster-ish chick named Zoe, who sweeps Mike off his feet by how “artsy” and “cool” she seems to be with her tats and camera. Heard’s fine here, but her character does feel unnecessary, especially considering all she does is show up, flirt with Mike, and offer him something of a romantic love-interest to look forward to when he’s done his little trip.
But other than that, everybody else is fine and more than welcome to participate in the proceedings.
Most people who moaned and complained about the fact that the original didn’t give a whole lot of development to the characters of Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, or especially, Kevin Nash – well, have no fear. Not only do these characters get plenty of development here, but they even get some of their own moments to shine and reveal something about their personalities. Bomer’s character likes to sing and meditate; Manganiello’s wants to settle down, get married and have a family; Nash’s wants to be, oddly enough, an artist; and as an added-on bonus, Adam Rodríguez’s new character, Tito, likes Frozen Yogurt and wants to sell it in the future. Other characters show up such as Jada Pinkett Smith’s Rome, who had something of a relationship with Mike in his early days, Donald Glover’s Andre, who wants to sing, and Stephen “tWitch” Boss as Malik, who doesn’t have any development, other than that he’s probably the best dancer of the bunch, aside from Tatum himself.
It’s all so incredibly goofy, but it works well because it seems like it wants to make these characters more than just caricatures of puffed-up beefcakes – they’re actually human beings, like you or I.
And yes, we’re still talking about “the male stripper movie” here, folks.
Consensus: While not as exceptional as the first, Magic Mike XXL still provides plenty of fun for anybody looking to see these characters strip-down, dance and hump all the ladies, while also still getting opportunities to talk about their lives.
7 / 10