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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Movie Review: 'Magic Mike XXL'

The gyrations behind Magic Mike XXL will keep you entertained, but will the dialogue?

Review by Matt Cummings

If the 2013's Magic Mike pondered the power of the pelvis, Producer Stephen Soderberg's followup Magic Mike XXL tries to go deeper...into the story behind male stripping. That effort doesn't always click, until said activity starts.

Set three years after the original, Mike (Channing Tatum) has opened his furniture-making business and is busy crafting and delivering his unique items to happy clients. But when he learns that the remaining Kings of Tampa are planning to retire, Mike sets out with them for one last blow-out at a Myrtle Beach convention. But they're going to need help, so they enlist Mike's former fling Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith), her mentor (Elizabeth Banks), and the enigmatic Zoe (Amber Heard) to pull of the performance of a lifetime in front of hungry female fans.

XXL is at its most casual - and fun - when the boys are doing what they do best: stripping, or watching someone else do the same. I hate to put such a fine point on things, but it's the only time when this meandering road trip mess by Writer Reid Carolin doesn't suffer from wardrobe malfunction. There's really no other story here than a buddy road trip comedy, but those connections are poorly conceived and need a serious edit. It's ok to portray the stripping business as non-glamorous and even slimy - and XXL does a good job of it - but tell it to us in a shorter tale. I suppose the film's message - that 'male entertainers' as the Boys call themselves - do bring a joy to their under-appreciated clientele, but the reasons why women will pack theaters to see XXL probably has nothing to do with them feeling this way.

There's a sense here that Tatum and company believe male entertainers are immensely creative people, and based on the rather unique dances concocted for our enjoyment, that may be true. Had the film focused more often on this, instead of giving us the kind of exposition you'd see in an independent film, I might not have been so bored. And bored you might be, with the exception of a truly funny scene involving Manganiello and a cold fish gas station attendant.

Tatum is making a name for himself as dramatic and action leads, which makes his appearance here seem like a step back. But, his casual nature and chemistry with the Boys of Tampa keeps us watching, especially when they're palling around at the home of a Southern divorcee (played convincingly by Andie MacDowell. Surprisingly, there's less nudity here than in the original, when a very naked Olivia Munn and Manganiello did captivating versions of the Full Monty. XXL contains none of that, either to its detriment or betterment. You'll have to decide.

Bomer, Nash, and Rodriguez are serviceable in their position roles, while Manganiello impresses in an expanded role. His scenes with Tatum - and later with MacDowell - keep the ship afloat in the film's early stages. Pinkett-Smith, known for her all-out Gotham role, adds a surprisingly simple revelation to her character's philosophy: that women are queens, and that they must be more communicative in what they need from their men. The fulfillment of female fantasies is merely a way for her to profit from that, sporting a collection of hunks including Fox NFL Analyst Michael Strahan as Augustus. Banks has a limited role as the convention's host, but it's clear that she and Rome have a (possibly sexual) past. That might have been a more interesting sidestory to let play out, because the road trip stuff largely does not work.

Heard, who's missing in large chunks of XXL, plays Zoe with a level of sublimity that challenges Mike without ever taking her clothes off. She's under-utilized throughout XXL, but her scenes with Tatum are enjoyable. There's a point when she seems genuinely surprised and even embarrassed by Tatum's routine, either revealing a shrew decision by Director Gregory Jacobs to deny her knowledge of what was about to happen, or demonstrating that Heard can actually act under those skin-tight leather pants. Either way it's the best part of the film, but by then you might not even care.

Perhaps Magic Mike XXL reflects the life of real strippers: big in their moments, exceedingly empty when the spotlight isn't on them. Nevertheless, its gyrations will keep the women happy, but it's insanely dull in many parts. The lack of McGonaghey can be felt, and its scant trace of a story makes it meander. But you're not interested in any of that, so go watch men strip to their thongs and enjoy the ride.

Magic Mike XXL is rated R for for strong sexual content, pervasive language, some nudity and drug use and has a runtime of 115 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.


Marlene Detierro August 8, 2015 at 10:59 PM  

The sexy mischief and the darkness and the earnest character beats all fit together in one terrifically entertaining, perfectly pitched success.

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