Three years after retiring from stripping to start a removal company, Mike is drawn back in for one more party.
Gregory Jacobs, 2015
While managing his tiny, struggling removal business, Mike (Channing Tatum) gets an invitation to attend the wake of an old friend. Instead of a wake, he finds a party, attended by members of the troop he used to strip with. The male entertainers inform Mike that they’re heading to Myrtle Beach for a strippers’ convention and invite him to come along with them. After hearing an old favourite on the radio, Mike agrees, heading off on a cross-country road trip and entertaining women along the way. There are, naturally, roadblocks on their path to the convention. When the team loses their MC, Mike decides to track down his former associate Rome (Jada Pinkett-Smith) and attempt to enlist her for her not inconsiderable hype talent. But Rome has her own agenda, and Mike must bust out all his best moves to win her over.
I haven’t seen the first Magic Mike film. From what I’ve heard, though, it’s a considerably different affair to the frothy fun of XXL. It’s almost as though dour drama Magic Mike was designed to be a typical Soderbergh affair, but accidentally attracted a massive female audience for some crazy reason. Then they made Magic Mike XXL into the film women thought they’d be seeing when they went to the first film: a simple road trip film, light on drama or character development but dripping with sexy style. The addition of Jada Pinkett-Smith’s Rome is an inspired idea; the woman has never entered a room she couldn’t dominate, and she’s campy magnetic goodness in this film, calling the audience “queens” and whipping them into a frenzy. The lovely thing about Magic Mike XXL is that the women in the audience are, indeed, worshipped. Their sexuality is celebrated, regardless of age, size, or race. Their fantasies are revealed and fulfilled by the very attractive men on screen. Channing Tatum does the majority of the heavy lifting acting-wise among the stripping trope, which includes Joe Manganiello (going big, which sometimes pays off – see the excellent gas station scene), Matthew Bomer (the pretty hippie who sings), Adam Rodriguez (who at least has a storyline involving his own business interest), and Kevin Nash (stoic and immobile, but fine). The later additions of hip hop dancer Stephen “tWitch” Boss and Donald Glover could have been explored more, but they’re a lot of fun. Tatum only has to stammer through an awkward scene and he’s completely charming.
Unfortunately, his charm is wasted on dull stick-in-the-mud pixie dreamgirl Amber Heard. She’s such a wet blanket that scenes involving her are actively disappointing; during one fantastic party in the home of southern belle Andie McDowell, we’re forced to join Mike in the kitchen to try to draw Heard’s Zoe out of the doldrums, and I couldn’t help but feel like I’d rather be back out with the others. I don’t understand the point of Zoe. She has very little effect on the plot, such as it is, she drives none of the action, and she’s very poorly written; she feels like an afterthought. The writing in general is…not terrific, with some epically cheesy lines and a little inconsistency in characterisation. It’s disappointing when the men refer to each other as “pussies” and ask “did you bang it?” about women – it seems counter to their characters, and it’s a bump in what’s otherwise a very smooth ride. The cinematography, by the first film’s director Steven Soderbergh, is gorgeous. The whole film is infused with a soft pink light that works nicely, in spite of the budget (the “fireworks” at the finale are just lights flashing on the characters’ faces). Still, for all its flaws, it’s 100% worth watching for any male-attracted people, and it’s one hell of a fun ride.
Magic Mike XXL on IMDb