I wasn’t as high on 2012’s Magic Mike as most people were, though thanks to director Steven Soderbergh the film turned out to be so much better than it should have been. I don’t think anyone expected a film about male strippers (supposedly a semi-autobiographical take on Channing Tatum’s real-life experiences) was going to be so dark and insightful.
The cash-grabbing sequel, Mike Mike XXL, is essentially what people thought the first film was going to be like. You can tell from the title alone that it’s much less serious and is more of a celebration of male stars stripping down and showing off their hard-earned abs. The message of Magic Mike is that the industry is not as glamorous and fun as it seems, while the message of Magic Mike XXL is, well, it actually is that glamorous and fun after all.
The premise for the sequel is simple. After leaving his stripping career behind and starting his own business, Mike (Tatum) is enticed into one last hurrah with his old gang — the Kings of Tampa — at a stripper convention in Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. The film brings back Joe Manganiello (whose role is expanded to make him the film’s No. 2 behind Tatum), Matt Bomer, Adam Rodriguez and adds wrestler Kevin Nash, though Matthew McConaughey is gone for good. Also gone is Tatum’s love interest from the first film, played by Cody Horn, replaced by new character Zoe (Amber Heard). Minor roles are filled by celebs such as Jada Pinkett Smith, Andie MacDowell (looking great at 57) and Elizabeth Banks.
Magic Mike XXL is basically a fun road trip movie that’s nowhere as layered or interesting as the original. There are funny and well-executed moments here and there — like solo dance sequences from Tatum and Manganiello — but on the whole the film cannot shake the sense that everyone’s just in it for the cash. There’s no real story, just a patchwork of events. The characters and conversations aren’t particularly compelling. The attempts at drama and female empowerment come across as forced and corny. It’s one of those sequels some people might pretend never existed so they can preserve the memories of the original.
Strictly speaking, Magic Mike XXL isn’t a bad movie. The actors are too good and the execution is too slick for it to fall into that category. And if you like watching hot men take their clothes off — though not full monty or anything like that — you might have a fun time. It’s one of those films that’s best experienced with a group of people, preferably after a few drinks. If you’re expecting anything more you’re likely to be disappointed.
2.5 stars out of 5