Magic Mike XXL

Posted by Joel Copling on July 1, 2015

On one hand, yes, "Magic Mike XXL" is a slightly inferior, inherently unnecessary sequel to 2012's "Magic Mike" that cuts out the original film's three most characters and relies less heavily on a plot than it does on a road trip to a foregone conclusion. On the other hand, this is an infectious two hours spent in the company of characters we like on a journey that is purely enjoyable to watch, so the complaint that it's unnecessary seems curmudgeonly in the face of something that is so much fun to watch. Even if the movie is an act of regression at its core, telling a story that really needn't be told because of the steps taken to avoid at the first film's end, I was grinning too much to care.

A lot of it has to do with the chemistry of its actors and the characters they play. Actors Matthew McConaughey, Alex Pettyfer, and Cody Horn might have been written out in ways that shed negative light on the characters they played in the first movie, but that's the extent of the cynicism for this enjoyable sequel, which finds its protagonist Mike, played again by Channing Tatum, at a place in his life where the stage, on which he gyrated for the pleasure of female and male audiences alike, is three years in his past. But he's drawn back into the game again by his former crew, the Kings of Tampa, who are traveling through Miami on the way to Charleston, South Carolina, for a show.

This time, however, the members of the Kings of Tampa are allowed their moment to shine, rather than becoming borderline interchangeable, such as in the finale, a competition in which each member (plus one who attaches himself to the group at the midway point) serenades and stripteases someone in the audience (We do not expect to hear a Nine Inch Nails song). It's a fun scene, cleverly staged by director Gregory Jacobs (taking over for Steven Soderbergh, who here acts as cinematographer and editor) in a series of single long takes that highlight the difficulty in the mechanics of the dance sequences with an almost-loving caress: These scenes are extensions upon the first film's tale of process and morality, rather than what surrounds them, which is comparably familiar and ho-hum.

What passes for a plot involves the competition itself, which is nearly derailed after a freak car accident leaves the crew's emcee (Gabriel Iglesias) incapacitated due to a concussion. Mike, Ken (Matt Bomer), Richie (Joe Manganiello), Tito (Adam Rodriguez), and Tarzan (Kevin Nash) keep on going to Charleston, on the way reeling in help from an old flame and colleague of Mike's named Rome (an excellent Jada Pinkett Smith). This leads to an extended setpiece at the makeshift studio wherein Donald Glover has an appearance as Rome's biggest-selling male entertainer, Andre (who is the member later attached to the group when Rome agrees to accompany them).

Mike also strikes up a sort-of flirtation with Zoe (Amber Heard), a stripper looking to escape the pole by constantly moving across the country. It's sort of a stand-in relationship for Mike that doesn't mean anything, though the actress has fun with the little she's given to do (such as berating Mike for preferring a certain sandwich cookie over red velvet cake--which, if I may say so, actually is kind of insane). Cameos from Elizabeth Banks, as one of Rome's former proteges, and Andie MacDowell, as a down-home mother with a secret, burning desire, are hysterical. "Magic Mike XXL" is sort of slight in overall impact, but the feeling is one of comfort food. A healthy serving of perfectly cooked red potatoes, this time with some salt and a pinch of pepper, is never a bad thing.

Film Information

Channing Tatum (Mike), Matt Bomer (Ken), Joe Manganiello (Richie), Adam Rodriguez (Tito), Kevin Nash (Tarzan), Gabriel Iglesias (Tobias), Amber Heard (Zoe), Jada Pinkett Smith (Rome), Donald Glover (Andre), Andie MacDowell (Nancy Davidson).

Directed by Gregory Jacobs and written by Reid Carolin.

Rated R (sexual content, pervasive language, nudity, drug use).

115 minutes.

Released on July 1, 2015.