Magic Mike XXL

Genre: Drama

Director: Gregory Jacobs

Screenplay: Channing Tatum, Reid Carolyn

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

Running Length:  115 minutes

Synopsis: Picking up the story three years after Mike (Channing Tatum) bowed out of the stripper life at the top of his game, Magic Mike XXL finds the remaining Kings of Tampa likewise ready to throw in the towel. But they want to do it their way: burning down the house in one last blow-out performance in Myrtle Beach, and with legendary headliner Magic Mike sharing the spotlight with them. On the road to their final show, with whistle stops in Jacksonville and Savannah to renew old acquaintances and make new friends, Mike and the guys learn some new moves and shake off the past in surprising ways.

Review: While Magic Mike was one of the bigger surprises in 2012 – although it’s about male strippers, in the end it was the power of storytelling that held the movie together, and not the strip acts – Magic Mike XXL is much less of a surprise. It’s essentially a road trip movie involving a bunch of old friends, except that they are “male entertainers” who get their kits off quite a number of times along the way. One thing that’s for sure – if you enjoyed the acts in the first Magic Mike, this aspect has been truly upsized (the movie title is not a lie) and more than earns the film its M18 rating, which probably isn’t a bad thing for the intended audiences.

There’s no real reason for this sequel to exist, and it clearly shows in the paper-thin plot that the film hangs onto. No matter, since the majority of audiences would have other things on their mind anyway. Yet, there’s a certain charm to the laid-back, almost impromptu style of storytelling that Magic Mike XXL has chosen to employ, which is in contrast to how Soderbergh chose to present the original Magic Mike. The film is also genuinely funny – there are little moments along the way that ensures a belly laugh or two, none more so than the hilarious gas station sequence where Richie (Joe Manganiello) tries to make the attendant smile.

What’s more interesting is that Magic Mike XXL is obtusely a girl-power movie: although the main cast is dripping with testosterone, the positions of power in the film are almost exclusively female – Jada Pinkett Smith as the steely yet sultry strip club owner cum (ahem) emcee, Andie McDowell’s cameo as an aging but rich Southern belle, Elizabeth Banks as the owner of the male stripper “convention”, and even all the women that are busy throwing money at the strippers. This is a movie made for the ladies (sorry guys – both straight and gay, although more the former than the latter), make no mistake about that.

And of course there’s the strip acts – lensed and edited impeccably by Soderbergh himself (under his Peter Andrews pseudonym) and choreographed flawlessly, the scenes in Domina and the finale really showcase what would imaginably be the top tier of male strip acts in the real world. Rarely has a movie been able to convey the steaminess of such acts without coming across as being sleazy, and while there are times where the movie toes the line, it will successfully leave many audiences feeling hot and bothered. And how can anyone actively hate on a film that can evoke such a visceral response?

Rating: * * * (out of four stars)

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