The first “Magic Mike” was a sexy slithering slice of cinema that was about the dancers, the men who shook their booties for the pleasure of anyone with a few dollars to spare. It was about, as Mike said, “women, money and good times,” but it also told the story behind the glittery G-strings.
As the title suggests, the sequel, “Magic Mike XXL,” is bigger than the first film, but is disappointingly (depending on your point of view) about the dancing, rather than the dancers.
The new movie begins with Magic Mike (Channing Tatum) struggling to make a go of his new furniture business. Out of the male entertainment game for three years, he hasn’t quite left his old life behind. His girlfriend has run off, his one employee is owed big bucks and, in his private moments, he still spontaneously breaks into exotic dance routines. At loose ends, he decides to find solace in stripping, making one last run with his old outfit The Kings of Tampa. “It’s like when Justin came back to Backstreet,” says one of his co-peelers.
His mentor Dallas (Matthew McConaughey) is out of the picture, promoting shows over seas, but that doesn’t stop the well-toned but aging crew (Joe Manganiello, Kevin Nash, Matt Bomer and Adam Rodriguez) from doing one last show at a Myrtle Beach stripper convention and earning a “tsunami of dollar bills.”
“Magic Mike XXL” is a road trip through the undergarments… er… the underbelly of the male entertainment business. It skims the surface of the life it portrays, playing like a more revealing “Entourage” bromance. The spiritual journey of the first film has been replaced by a burlesque show with skin-deep depth. It’s a blockbuster with an indie film feel—any slicker and this would be little more than “Showgirls”—but none of the introspection that would make it special. A profound lack of drama or conflict make it feel like a slightly sexier “Road to Bali.”
Having said that, the naturalistic performances and chemistry between the cast is appealing and there is an undeniable appeal to the dirty dancing scenes, but, depending on your point of view, they either make the film worth watching or push the movie into R-rated make-you-blush territory. One thing that can’t be denied is that Channing Tatum could have had a career as a gymnast if the whole acting thing didn’t work out. All of his dance scenes look as though he performing inside a snow globe full of dollar bills thrown by excited onlookers.
As revealing as “Magic Mike XXL” is, it doesn’t give us enough of an inside look at the characters to be really interesting.