Director: Gregory Jacobs.
Cast: Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, Amber Heard.
Screenplay by: Reid Carolin.
Running Time: 115 minutes.
Is that XXL title necessary? Not really, but you can be sure it helped fill seats. Magic Mike XXL opens three years after the original film ended, and we now find that Mike (Channing Tatum) has followed through on his aspirations set out in the predecessor by starting his own custom furniture business. Things haven’t really gone quite to plan though, as his business hasn’t taken off as he anticipated and his girlfriend appears to have left. It only takes spending a few hours with his old crew to realise that he misses the excitement of his old life, so he decides to join the guys (Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, and Kevin Nash) on one last hurrah as they travel to take part in a stripper convention in Mrytle Beach.
The original Magic Mike was a shock for some upon release back in 2012, as it was surprisingly deeper than the promotional materials for the film let on. The film had a plot beyond the spectacle of the stripping scenes: It had an interesting coming of age/descent into the world of drugs storyline that many were not expecting.
This time around there’s another attempt made to make the film deeper than the adverts suggest, but it’s not quite as successful as the first in that respect. The film hints at a possibly interesting plot: what happens to these guys now that they’re getting too old for their profession? Unfortunately, this isn’t followed up on. Instead the film just aims to be as entertaining as possible, which can be a tough feat for a film bordering on two hours, but it somehow pulls it off. It won’t be until after you leave the theatre that you realise there was minimal plot. When a film is this fun and full of energy, does it really matter? I imagine most of the people seeing this film are not going for a hard-hitting plot, but instead the rock-hard abs of the characters. Which is why storyline is secondary to spectacle here. Which is why some sections of the film add absolutely nothing to the plot, but are simply there for the audience’s enjoyment.
While it may not be as plot heavy as the first, it does contain some of those little personal moments between the characters that made the first film more complex than you were led to believe it would be. The viewer realises that there’s more to these characters than their muscled physique. The chemistry between the cast members is one of the highlights of the film, and there appears to be no weak link. Noticeably missing for this outing though is Matthew McConaughey, who provided the most entertaining performance of the first instalment as the MC, Dallas. He is replaced by Jada Pinkett Smith, who, though entertaining, is no match for the original. Playing a previous employer of the titular character, she adds a strong female presence to the film (something that the first film lacked). The first film also had a big name director to boot, Steven Soderbergh, who has (thankfully) remained involved in some sense by taking on the role of cinematographer. The direction might be a tad more wooden than the first but at least it’s still pretty to look at.
Now to the question much of the intended audience is wondering: are there many stripping scenes? Yes, there are a lot of stripping scenes. Yes, there is a lot of flesh on display. There are also many comedic scenes, some of which happen to be stripping/dancing scenes. There’s a sequence that take place at a gas station which includes a Backstreets Boys song that is easily one of the funniest moments I’ve seen in a movie all year. There are some genuine laughs (and some fun supporting characters) to be found in here for those of you that find yourselves dragged along to see it, so fret not. It’s no Boogie Nights, but it’s clear that those aspirations have been lost.
Verdict: Even though the plot is paper thin, Magic Mike XXL still manages to be deliriously entertaining, and that’s exactly what it wants to be. What more can you ask of a summer release about strippers? Just enjoy it for what it is: a distraction.