The 400-Word Review: Magic Mike XXL
By Sean Collier
July 6, 2015
Few franchises have switched genres as suddenly as the “Magic Mike” franchise. The 2012 original, directed by Steven Soderbergh, was an oft-lighthearted but fundamentally serious slice-of-life drama, shining an unforgiving light on a subculture.
Its sequel is a goofball road trip comedy.
In Magic Mike XXL, the central journey of the original film — that of new dancer Adam (Alex Pettyfer, not in this film) as he transitions from naive pretty boy to drug-addled entertainer — is completely forgotten, other than a note that former emcee Dallas (Matthew McConaughey, also not in this film) took Adam off to Europe for higher paydays. Instead, the old crew rolls through Tampa for a brief reunion with Mike (Channing Tatum), and mentions they’re en route to an annual stripper convention — yes, a convention of male strippers — in Myrtle Beach.
Mike is running a profitable, if struggling, furniture business and hasn’t bumped and/or grinded in years. But what kind of a movie would that make? After hearing his signature slow jam on the radio, he jumps in the back of the crew’s yogurt truck (that’s not a euphemism — or maybe it is) and sets off for South Carolina.
What follows is the movie that everyone who skipped Magic Mike assumed they were avoiding: lots of jokes, lots of stripping, lots of (off-screen) sex. It’s certainly a comedy and probably a farce, with none of the darkness-on-the-edge-of-town haze that pervaded Soderbergh’s film. (This installment is directed by Gregory Jacobs, the first assistant director on the original and several other Soderbergh pictures.)
Does that make it bad? No, not at all. Magic Mike XXL is fun and often funny, with many of the better elements of any road trip flick. Each subsequent set piece along the road opens new potential for antics, and though there are too many — particularly in light of the 20-minute-plus, real-time stage routine at the film’s climax — the assembled crew is thoroughly enjoyable to pass time with.
This is largely thanks to Joe Manganiello, who carries the comedy and ably steps in to fill the void left by McConaughey. Tatum, too, is charming as ever, despite a limp romantic subplot with a blank-slate beach bum played by Amber Heard. As for the stripping: those inclined to enjoy it will be thrilled, straight men will be rendered profoundly jealous and everyone will groove to the omnipresent bassline.
My Rating: 7/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark