DIRECTOR: Gregory Jacobsmagic_mike_xxl_ver10

CAST: Channing Tatum, Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Kevin Nash, Adam Rodriguez, Gabriel Iglesias, Andie MacDowell, Amber Heard, Jada Pinkett Smith, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Glover, Michael Strahan, Max Webster, Stephen “tWitch” Boss, Billy Reilich, Christian Boeving, Dmitry Steesy, Ric Flair

RUNNING TIME: 115 mins

CERTIFICATE: 15

BASICALLY…: Former male stripper “Magic” Mike (Tatum) is called back into action by his friends (Bomer, Manganiello, Nash and Rodriguez) for a trip to Myrtle Beach for one last blow-out performance…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

Though he may now be a bona fide movie star thanks to the Jump Street and G.I. Joe movies, though he may disagree about that last franchise after some choice words in a previous interview, Channing Tatum’s past life as a male stripper still has a tendency to overshadow his current successes and just have him viewed by some as an obvious sex symbol. These experiences of his led to the creation of 2012’s male stripper odyssey Magic Mike, which Steven Soderbergh directed with Tatum starring alongside Matthew McConaughey and Alex Pettyfer, but while it was a critical and financial hit some felt a little underwhelmed with its heavier focus on its darker storyline and character developments than the actual dance routines it was advertising.

Don’t worry, folks; its sequel, Magic Mike XXL, takes care of that pesky problem for you.

Gone is the dour tone of the previous film and replacing it are multiple scenes of shirtless men, choreographed dance moves and a sillier attitude that lighten things up considerably. It’s exactly what the (mostly female) audience wants to see, a two-hour folly where men with the abs of the gods entertain their customers with endless floor-humping and penis-thrusting – but does it make for a better movie all the same?

Though Tatum returns as the titular Mike, now the head of his own small-time furniture company, Soderbergh has since effectively retired from directing (though he acts as both cinematographer and editor here) while McConaughey has gone on to bigger things such as winning an Oscar and working with Christopher Nolan – which begs the question, what’s Pettyfer’s excuse for not returning? – with both leaving behind an alarmingly big hole to fill. Gregory Jacobs, the first film’s assistant director, steps up to the mike in Soderbergh’s place, while Mike’s stripper buddies Ken (Matt Bomer), “Big Dick” Richie (Joe Manganiello), “Tarzan” (Kevin Nash) and Tito (Adam Rodriguez) are given much bigger roles as they entice Mike back into the game as they go on the road to a stripper convention at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

If that sounds very slight, then you’re pretty much on the money; there is virtually no concrete plot outside of just that, along with a few extended sequences in between. It’s as if they know that’s not what people care about when going in to this movie, and just have it be what they’re expecting without any catch to it. With the first one, there was at least the examination of the consequences of leading such an extravagant lifestyle and how it could be difficult for Mike to fully leave it behind, while another newcomer – Pettyfer’s character – could be so drawn into it and fully absorbed with almost no chance of escape. Here, it’s just a road trip movie with more abs – and that’s fine if all you’re looking for is half-naked men strutting their stuff for your entertainment, but for anyone else expecting as much substance as the first film was at least offering then it’s not surprising if you feel this to be an inferior sequel.

That being said, there are certainly sparky moments of pure dumb fun to be found in this flick, and much of it does in fact come from the dancing. These are some impressively choreographed numbers that Tatum and his co-stars perform throughout the movie, including an opening number set in a garage to Ginuwine’s “Pony”, one in a convenience store where Manganiello attempts to win a bet using the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way”, and that’s not even coming anywhere near the climactic sequence which properly earns the film its XXL moniker. Some of them do go on for longer than they should, specifically a visit to an African-American joint run by Jada Pinkett Smith’s feisty MC Rome, but there’s a sense of passion in the choreography and how Jacobs shoots them that gives the film a more fun and stupidly enjoyable feel than before.

Bottom line, if you’re going in to see what you want then what you want is what you get – Magic Mike XXL certainly doesn’t have as deep a plot or character development as its predecessor, but anyone wanting to be entertained by some impressive dance moves and floor-grinding will no doubt get their money’s worth.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Magic Mike XXL outdoes its predecessor with its wild and entertaining male stripper sequences that feature some great choreography and total commitment by its performers, but falls way short of that last film’s plot and character development by having either much less or none at all. Not exactly magical, but certainly charming.