Magic Mike XXL Review
XXL SHOWCASES SHOWMANSHIP
Released back in the summer of 2012, Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike was a surprising hit. This film, which was loosely based now popular actor Channing Tatum’s experience as a male stripper, was largely accepted by critics and fans and grossed an impressive $167 million dollars at the box office. Not bad for a film that only cost $7 million to make. Three years later, the crew is back for another round of beefcake striptease in the sequel Magic Mike XXL. Does the film recapture the Magic’s magic or is it all for show and nothing more?
Three years have passed since Mike Lane (Channing Tatum) aka “Magic Mike” left his male stripper troupe (The Kings of Tampa) to pursue his passion of furniture construction. Mike is definitely feeling the pressure of owning his own business, trying to make his finances work for his single employee, while also struggling with broken love life. Tricked into meeting his former male entertainer co-workers, Mike is welcomed back into the gang, reuniting with Big D**k Richie (Joe Manganiello), Ken (Matt Bomer), Tarzan (Kevin Nash), Tobias (Gabriel Iglesias), and Tito (Adam Rodrigeuz) as the group takes one last road tour with final destination at a stripper convention in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Eager to get his “Magic” groove back, Mike returns to his entertaining roots, meeting up with Zoe (Amber Heard), a young and ambitious female photographer, and forced to confront his former female boss Rome (Jada Pinkett-Smith), who is in possession of the MC charm and showmanship necessary to ignite their stripper show extravaganza at the convention.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
I decided to pass on viewing Magic Mike in theaters and finally decided to watch it when it came to television. Personally, I thought the film was the just an okay. It wasn’t because of the movie’s overall male stripper premise; it was because Magic Mike was just an uninteresting melodrama feature. Looking beyond the film’s male entertainers centerpieces, the story was bland, certain scenes dragged, weird cinematography editing, and several unwelcoming characters. Like I said with my review for The Age of Adaline and Fifty Shades of Grey, I’m trying to broaden my horizons as a movie blogger review, thus I decided to purchase a ticket and gave Magic Mike XXL a chance. After watching it, I found that this sequel pays attention to what its fans truly want, but still lacks substance and fails to deliver a well-rounded narration to its fleshy presentation.
Steven Soderbergh, who directed the first Magic Mike, passes the directorial baton to longtime collaborator Gregory Jacobs. Jacobs, who’s been mostly a first assistant director, takes the premise of original film and dissects it, choosing to add and remove certain aspects meant to please hardcore fans; similar to what Elizabeth Banks did with Pitch Perfect 2. Such notable changes like character from the first film, including Mathew McConaughey’s Dallas, Cody Horn’s Brooke, and Alex Pettyfer’s Adam are written out of the sequel, with excuses made for their characters bowing out. With the only possible exception of McConaughey, this decision seemed best for XXL, trimming the fat from unwelcomed previous characters that many didn’t really care for. Soderbergh does remain on the project, handling the film’s cinematography with notion that the film will look and feel similar to its predecessor. Additionally, some of the dance choreography is actually pretty good, especially during the movie’s finale with a mimicking mirror dance between Channing Tatum and Stephen ‘tWitch’ Boss. And yes, for anyone asking, the movie still retains that provocative playfulness in all of its male stripper frivolities (If you’re a diehard fan of this….get your dollar bills ready).
What ultimately tarnishes Magic Mike XXL is the lack of its narrative. Story-wise, XXL is pretty basic with a simplistic road trip vibe that involves each of the main characters in several mischievous acts as the push onward towards their final destination in Myrtle Beach. In truth, the movie doesn’t even carry the melodramatics from the previous movie (only touching briefly on Mike’s martial woes and financial problems in the film’s beginning). This can be both good and bad, but unfortunately falls into the bad category. There just not enough substance to measure (or even warrant) a roughly two hour feature film. Because of this, XXL indulges too much on several scenes. These scenes, which mostly consist of the film’s second act, are strenuous and are tediously long; offering nothing much of anything other than self-indulgence in elongated sexual dances and minor side-story plot devices. Even the film’s ending is unsatisfying, feeling like Jacob and his team ran of money (or ideas) to bring the movie to a satisfying conclusion. What happens to the guys? Does Mike get the girl? What happens to Mike’s business? Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t answer that and we (the viewers) will probably never know. All in all, with a weak narrative and no sustainable dramatic substance, Magic Mike XXL feels more like a fan film epilogue to the first Magic Mike rather than a proper sequel.
While the movie lacks cinematic depth, it makes up for in its cast. Each member of the Kings of Tampa is giving room to express the characters, allowing spotlight moments throughout the film, including the film’s finale, to showcase themselves, beyond their physical attributes and male bravado monikers. In conjunction with the tonal shift in its storytelling, Channing Tatum’s Mike changes, shedding his brooding, tortured artist persona from the first film to play the more common everyday “bro” attitude. It’s not a very heavy-hitting or demanding role for the 35 year old actor, but he seems comfortable playing it, utilizing his fluid dance movements and brings his own charisma to the feature. The same goes for Joe Manganiello character Big Dick Richie, as he charms his way throughout the movie, including XXL’s funniest scene where he tries to arouse a female gas station clerk by performing provocative sexual movements while listening to “I Wanna It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys. The Other Kings of Tampa entertainers, including Kevin Nash’s Tarzan, Adam Rodriguez’s Tito, and Matt Bomer’s Ken also performed well in reprising their roles. Only Gabriel Iglesias’s Tobias gets short changed from the returning cast members with limited screen time.
Replacing McConaughey’s MC duties is newcomer Rome, an old flaming / boss from Mike’s past, played by Jada Pinkett-Smith. She actually does a very good job in this capacity, playing the larger-than-life queen bee ruler of a female pleasure strip club that Mike and guys visit as they try to tempt the foxy vixen into helping them. Joining Rome’s entourage are Stephen ‘tWitch’ Boss and Donald Glover, both bringing their lively, real-life celebrity personas to XXL’s sensual and performance proceedings. Amber Heard’s Zoe, another new character, isn’t so compelling on-screen. Her narrative role in the movie fits similarly to Cody Horn’s Brooke from the first Magic Mike, acting as a new love interest for Mike Lane. While she and Tatum go tit for tat in verbal exchanges, she doesn’t have that much screen time to strum up any type of chemistry passion with him, which ultimately fails the romantic connection between their two characters. Actresses Elizabeth Banks and Andie MacDowell grace this sequel, offering very colorful performances within their very minor supporting roles. Finally, there’s even a brief cameo appearance of former football player / TV host Michael Strahan as one of Rome’s male strippers.
Magic Mike is back as well as his beefcake stripper entourage in Magic Mike XXL. This follow-up feature might be considered as an unnecessary sequel, but it at least cultivates a semi-entertaining road trip piece that’s lighthearted and more than just a quick cash-grab byproduct from studio execs. While the film is weak in the narrative / drama department and suffers from too much indulgence, the cast does bring their own charisma to the movie and delivers more dynamic dance performances. There were improvements made, but only slightly and nothing groundbreaking; resulting in just an okay sequel. Naturally, if Magic Mike wasn’t to your liking, than there’s little reason to believe that this sequel will change your mind. For fans of the first film, Magic Mike XXL will surely grab your attention, serving up fan service moments with more showmanship in larger sequences of sexual gyrations, flying dollar bills, and chiseled half-naked bodies.