Mark Reviews Movies

Magic Mike XXL


2 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Gregory Jacobs

Cast: Channing Tatum, Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Adam Rodriguez, Kevin Nash, Gabriel Iglesias, Amber Heard, Jada Pinkett Smith, Donald Glover, Andie MacDowell

MPAA Rating: R (for strong sexual content, pervasive language, some nudity and drug use)

Running Time: 1:55

Release Date: 7/1/15

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Review by Mark Dujsik | June 30, 2015

Whatever changes Mike (Channing Tatum) underwent in Magic Mike are tossed aside in the sequel. One may recall that the film took the form of something approaching a morality tale, in which stripping was not wrong on account of any moral concern but because it was essentially a dead end for a man who wanted more out of his life. Stripping was a placeholder for Mike—a means to earn money while he tried to figure out how to go about pursuing his dream. Magic Mike XXL sees the once and future "male entertainer" having accomplished his dream. He owns his own business. He is his own boss. Apparently, it's still not enough.

The sequel doesn't quite justify Mike's return to stripping. While his business is booming or at least doing well, he only has one employee, and he can't afford to pay for the man's health insurance. His girlfriend left him after he proposed to her. These are obviously setbacks, but everything we've come to know about Mike tells us that such circumstances are not going to stop him. We know him as the kind of guy who will see those things as challenges against which to rally—not reasons to regress to his old life.

He does, though, and it comes as something unexpected for us and for him. While he's working in his shop on some piece of furniture, a song comes on the radio, and the music overtakes him. Mike starts an impromptu dance routine, twirling across tables and spinning on stools and flipping off the walls, while using a steel beam and a power drill as suggestive props to hold and thrust between his legs. He's a showman. That's for certain, and maybe that certainty is the only justification he needs.

In the first film, stripping was something from which Mike needed to escape. In the sequel, it's inescapable.

Mike ends up with his old buddies, the male entertainment group called the Kings of Tampa, after the boys try to convince Mike to join them at an annual male stripper convention in Myrtle Beach for one last gig with the group. He's reluctant at first but ultimately agrees. Something is pulling him back, and whatever we think we know about Mike, it's best to just accept that pull as a fact.

The screenplay by Reid Carolin is much more freewheeling than his screenplay for the first film. This is a road movie, in which the guys make a lot of stops on their way to the convention to joke around or, naturally, show off their moves. The first film gave us the perils of the business. The biggest peril here is that Tobias (Gabriel Iglesias), the group's driver, participates in a meditation exercise while he's driving the group's tour bus, which doubles as a food truck business started by Tito (Adam Rodriguez). It's a far more lighthearted affair—almost as if Carolin is apologizing for bringing us down with a moody, desperate tale of strippers the first time.

That's fine, because the movie has fun with its setups and there is still an air of disappointment with life within all of these characters. Tito and Tobias want to their yogurt enterprise to succeed. Richie (Joe Manganiello) is distressed that he's pushing 40 and still hasn't found a woman to love and who will accept him for his, well, most sizeable attribute. Tarzan (Kevin Nash) wanted to be an artist. Ken (Matt Boner) wants to be an actor, but his biggest breaks so far have been a commercial and a gig in a costume at a major theme park.

There's a genuine sense of camaraderie to the group that goes beyond their interim profession, which has gone on too long for all of them. There is just enough misery here to add a little bit of substance to what is really just an excuse to throw the guys into scenarios where they need or want to dance.

There's a lot more of that in this movie, and while some of it is amusing (A scene in which Richie tries to put a smile on a grumpy gas station clerk's face is the highlight), most of it stops the movie in its tracks. There's a lengthy sequence in a private club where Mike used to dance, as the guy's try to get alternate transportation and convince Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith) to take over as the group's emcee, that goes on well past its usefulness. The finale, too, takes up a lot of time in showing off how each man ties his passion into a dance routine (although I suspect a certain segment of the audience will feel the lengthy of the climax is completely warranted). More effective is a long scene in which the guys make a group of well-to-do women feel better about their lives, while a romantic subplot involving Mike and a rebellious photographer (Amber Heard) is slight.

Considering that this sequel doesn't need to exist and that it is is a 180-degree turn on its predecessor, Magic Mike XXL is a lot better than it could have been. Its free-form structure is fun and does allow for the characters to show off more than their chiseled physiques, but the movie is still a mere shadow of the original.

Copyright © 2015 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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