‘Magic Mike XXL’ Review: More Mike, Less Magic

'Magic Mike XXL'

Movie Rating:

2.5

Well, here’s a new one: a movie about male strippers is now officially a franchise. Steven Soderbergh’s ‘Magic Mike‘ was a truly unexpected charmer when it popped up on screens with glistening abs and a throbbing heart in 2012. It did so well that a sequel got ordered up immediately. Sadly, just like spending a little too much time in a strip club, much of the fun has faded away through repetition.

‘Magic Mike XXL’ is ultimately a victory lap for everyone involved and the movie never overcomes that fact, even if that’s central to the story.

A few years have passed since Mike (Channing Tatum) had his triumphant shirtless adventures. Just like he always dreamed, he now runs his own furniture company. But it’s not the fantasy he hoped for; it’s the real world, and only semi-successful. He can’t even afford health benefits for his single employee. Mike’s life gets a much-needed shakeup when he gets a call from his old stripper pals to tell him that Matthew McConaughey’s beloved strip club barker Dallas is dead. That turns out to be a trick, but sadly not one that means Dallas is in the movie. No, screenwriting convenience removes the last flick’s central characters played by McConaughey (a big loss), Alex Pettyfer (no real loss), and Cody Horn (a medium loss). So, Mike’s stuck with his stripper sidekicks like Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, Kevin Nash and Adam Rodriguez, who didn’t bring much to the last movie. They all head on the road to a big stripper convention in Florida so that an episodic structure can provide something for all the characters to do between ripping their tops off.

The lazy, rambling, road movie leads to some highs and lows – like Jada Pinkett Smith’s bizarre male stripper palace (featuring Donald Glover as a freestyle rap stripper), a generic love interest played by Amber Heard, and most memorably a strange middle aged flirtatious wine party hosted by a sizzling Andie MacDowell. The fact that the movie is a superfluous victory lap for the characters and creators helps justify the repetition and lulls, yet not enough to save the movie.

There’s no real point to the sequel beyond reminding audiences what they liked about the first movie and getting the beefcakes to jiggle their shit around. Certainly, for some viewers that’ll be enough, but not nearly the same number of people who made the last ‘Magic Mike’ an unexpected hit. Clearly, Steven Soderbergh felt the same way. He couldn’t be bothered to direct this time, handing off that duty to his longtime A.D. Gregory Jacobs while still showing up to the party as a producer, cinematographer and editor, where he could enjoy himself without having to worry about taking blame for the film’s many failings. Admittedly, Soderbergh’s arty, underlit aesthetic remains, and the flick looks more compelling than any other summer movie on the market. Unfortunately, none of Soderbergh’s other talents made it into the project.

It’s really a shame that the gang wasn’t able to recapture more of Mike’s magic on this second go-round, because the handful of sequences that really work serve as a reminder of what a pleasant surprise the last movie was. In an era when summer movies are all adolescent fantasies, ‘Magic Mike’ sold tickets on an easily marketable premise and then delivered a surprisingly mature adult drama about messy imperfect life spiked with blasts of very knowing comedy about all the glossy bumping and grinding. ‘Magic Mike XXL’ delivers plenty of the greasy grinding, but never really digs beneath the abs of any of the characters or pauses to wink at the audience. That is, of course, with the exception of a late drunken house party where Andie MacDowell drawls her way through a devilishly charming master of ceremonies with genuine spark that not only forces the rest of the cast to up their game, but also gets into some actual human observation. It’s a cute and spunky little sequence in a movie that needs far more of them.

Obviously, everyone who plans on showing up just for the shirtless frolicking will get their kicks. It’s just a too bad that so few of Mike’s real charms returned for Round Two.

7 comments

  1. Chris B

    I actually saw the first one of these because I’m such a fan of Soderbergh. I didn’t mind it but goddamn after while the shirtless dudes became a little much.

    Even though Soderbergh doesn’t direct this one, is the colour timing as yellowish as the first one? It honestly looked like the movie had been literally pissed-on for half of it’s running time. Then again, I suppose it could have been a sly reference to golden showers…I wonder…

    • While Soderbergh didn’t direct the sequel, he did work as cinematographer on it (because he’s weird like that). I’d assume it will have the same visual style as the first. It looks that way from the trailers.

      Inexplicably strange color schemes have been Soderbergh’s trademark since at least Traffic.

    • moremovies85

      It is definitely less yellow than the previous film. The beach scenes in Magic Mike had some of the ugliest coloring I had ever seen. MMXXL plays with darkness a lot, conversations where people are almost completely in shadow, which is both interesting and annoying.

      MMXXL gave the target audience what they didn’t get with the first movie: Male Entertainers having a great time and entertaining ladies. It is a much more shallow movie, but also more fun for the target audience. MMXXL has a cinemascore of A- compared to the mediocre B of Magic Mike.

  2. itjustWoRX

    I might give this a chance when it hits cable, although it sounds like most of the “heart” of the original has been taken out. Thankfully, Alex Pettywhatever and Cody Horn were also taken out. It’s not hard to be an actress when your dad is chairman of Disney.

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