5.5 out of 10
Magic Mike XXL Cast:
Channing Tatum as “Magic Mike” Lane
Directed by Gregory Jacobs
It’s been three years since Mike Lane (Channing Tatum) retired from being a “male entertainer” to design furniture, but when he gets the call that the Kings of Tampa are reuniting for a road trip to a strippers convention in Myrtle Beach, he agrees to set aside his retirement to join them.
Magic Mike XXL Review:
You know that thing when a movie ends up being way better than you expected, because it comes from such a personal place of those involved? A movie like that inevitably is able to connect with audiences doing well enough that figuring out how to make a sequel is a no-brainer, but as happens all too often, it’s rare a movie can stand up to what works so organically. With that in mind, welcome to the summer of 2015 with this Magic Mike XXL movie review, as you join Pitch Perfect 2 and Ted 2 as another uninspired sequel trying to make a cash grab for women who have disposable income who feel like seeing a movie about stripping is more distinguished than going to a strip club.
As the film opens, Mike is contacted by Tarzan, one of his former colleagues in the Kings of Tampa who tells him Dallas (Matthew McConaughey’s character from the first movie) is dead, a ruse to get him to join them on the road. The whole idea of the movie is that the guys are all about having fun and partying as they make their way to their destination, but the harder the movie tries to be funny and entertaining, the more it fails at being either.
The original Magic Mike was based on Channing Tatum’s own years as an exotic dancer and that story was resolved in a satisfactory way, forcing one to set aside any doubts of the logic in him wanting to return to the stage. Because of this, the filmmakers are left trying to figure out a way to keep the fun going and they do that with the most obvious plot possible. In that in sense, it’s a lot like the recent Pitch Perfect 2, which wasn’t much better, because it also thought that putting popular characters into the most obvious story would be enough to satisfy fans of the earlier movie.
Channing Tatum gives another bland performance that’s more about his fancy dance moves than his acting chops, and the film’s saving grace comes in the form of actresses like Amber Heard and Jada Pinkett Smith, both who bring a lot to the table in their dramatic scenes with Tatum. Pinkett Smith is especially strong on screen as she’s introduced as Rome, a club owner from Mike’s past who he turns to when they crash their ride. She’s now running a woman’s club in a large Southern plantation house where women can pay to watch men disrobe, gyrate and make them feel special. This scene seems to go on forever as it shows a bunch of performances (including one by football player/TV host Michael Strahan, who doesn’t have a single line).
The film is hurt the most by not having a director like Steven Soderbergh who can get the most out of the cast and the weak story. For whatever reason, he’s relegated himself to the role of executive producer and cinematographer – the fact the film looks as good as it does will probably be attributed more to Soderbergh’s involvement than the film’s actual director, Soderbergh’s producing partner Greg Jacobs.
If Soderbergh’s absence as director wasn’t painfully obvious, we’re given a harsh reminder when Andie MacDowell, star of his early film Sex, Lies, and Videotape, shows up as a Southern belle cougar the boys meet while trying to get to the convention.
The movie does get better as it goes along because the characters are fun to watch, and each of the guys gets their own moment like Joe Manganiello dancing in a convenience store to entertain a bored cashier and Donald Glover (from “Community”) getting to show off his singing chops (which fans of Childish Gambino will already be well aware of). But the story never rises above its simplistic premise, and as one expects, it all leads up to the Kings doing another elaborate dance routine showcasing each of their assets (and asses).
There’s just no getting around the fact that Magic Mike XXL is a movie written and directed by men who think they know what women want, so they condescend to the lowest common denominator in order to appease them. When all else fails it returns to parading off its characters as cheesecake, which sadly, for many women, will be all they need to leave this movie satisfied. As someone who has little interest in half-naked men with well-toned abs, there was just very little to keep me interested in Magic Mike XXL.
The Bottom Line:
Magic Mike XXL tries its best to recreate the “magic,” but the lack of anything groundbreaking in terms of storytelling and the noticeable absence of Soderbergh and McConaughey makes it a weak sequel that will only appeal to those that can be satisfied by the prospect of buff half-naked men and little more.