Magic Mike XXL
The story of Magic Mike is roughly something like this: Steven Soderbergh and a dozen of his aliases decide to make a character study off of Reid Carolin’s script loosely based on the fact that star Channing Tatum worked for eight months as a male stripper — excuse me, “male entertainer” — in Florida. It went on to make All The Money, which was kind of a surprise since nobody involved realized that women would line up around the block to see hot, half-naked men dancing.
Obviously they were going to make a sequel, but they hadn’t gone into the first movie planning for it, so they needed to start from scratch, meaning it’s three years later now that we get Magic Mike XXL. The upside is that they were able to listen to their newly-discovered target audience and give them exactly what they said they liked from the first one. Gone are Matthew McConaughey, Alex Pettyfer, and Cody Horn, disposed of neatly within the first few scenes. Gone with them are the few interesting bits of character and story that made Magic Mike more than very softcore lady-porn. “Thank God,” said one woman to her friends as they left the screening I attended. “I don’t need any of that.”
So while I look at Magic Mike XXL and see nothing but empty cinematic calories, that’s exactly the candy that the women in its target audience want. And, to be honest, it’s not like Hollywood is exactly their Willy Wonka, especially compared with the vapid, pandering schlock it cranks out for young men (cf. Terminator: Genisys, opening opposite, which I will not be bothering to review).
What’s left is a stripped-down (sorry) version of the movie that knows exactly what it wants to deliver to its audience, and is very good at doing so. After Dallas and Adam take off, the remaining four Kings of Tampa — Ken (Matt Bomer), “Big Dick” Richie (Joe Manganiello), Tarzan (Kevin Nash), and Tito (Adam Rodriguez) — decide to take “one last ride” to an annual industry convention in Myrtle Beach, along with Tobias (Gabrial Iglesias) stepping up as ersatz impresario. They stop in Tampa to pick up Mike (Tatum), whose girlfriend turned down his proposal and whose contracting business is struggling. And then, as they are wont to, hijinks ensue.
It’s basically a road movie, getting from Tampa to Myrtle Beach, with an episodic structure that starts to feel like this is a backdoor pilot for a weekly sitcom on Showtime or Starz. Some setup advances the plot to a point where the guys take their clothes off and dance, and then there’s a little more story. One time they end up at a ladies’ club in Savannah Mike used to know, where they meet Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith), Andre (Donald Glover), and Malik (Steven “tWitch” Boss). Another time they spend an evening with a bunch of rich, middle-aged southern ladies (led by Andie MacDowell). And of course there’s the big finale, which seems to be structured like a competition even though there is literally nothing at stake.
The problems, such as they are, are feather-light compared with those that faced the Kings last time around, and mostly seem to revolve around the guys wondering whether they even want to keep dancing at all. Those concerns are mostly allayed by Andre, who points out the incredible number of ladies he meets in this line of work, all eager to jump into bed just because he dances, sings, and listens to them for once, or at least pretends to. And they actually pay him! Funny how it’s still the men who come out on top, but that’s much too serious a thought for this movie to entertain.
But the most serious problem we ever see is that of an aimless young woman Mike keeps meeting on the road (Amber Heard). She needs more than just Mike listening to her, but thankfully not much more; once he takes his clothes off and dances on top of her she can relax and have fun, and all of those messy real-world concerns she once talked about are forgotten forever. Magic, indeed.
Worth It: in its way, yes.
Bechdel Test: fail.