‘Magic Mike XXL’ is here for your entertainment
The great American singer-songwriter Robert Kelly once said, “I don’t see nothin’ wrong with a little bump ‘n’ grind,” and that’s certainly the case when it comes to movies about male strippers. When the first Magic Mike movie hit theaters in 2012, it wasn’t love at first sight for me. Sure, I liked the dancing, and something about Channing Tatum is always so damn charming, but it kept getting bogged down with things like story and drama. Thankfully, Tatum and co. seem to have taken the hint with Magic Mike XXL, and they’ve delivered a movie that gives us what we really want: hot guys with great bodies taking their clothes off to music.
This sequel sees our titular hero living out his dream of making custom furniture while maintaining a healthy relationship and making tons of money—at least that’s what his stripper pals think. In reality, business is struggling and his relationship with Brooke (Cody Horn, who does not appear in this film, thankfully) is a thing of the past. Mike is trying to be a grownup, to leave his stripper past behind him and move forward, but he just can’t fight who he really is. In one scene, he’s welding in his workshop when a very familiar Ginuwine tune comes on the radio, and the boy can’t help but dance, treating us to a moment that would be ridiculously campy if it weren’t so damn sexy. When his buddies, the Cock Rocking Kings of Tampa, suddenly show up at his doorstep to convince him to take a road trip with them to a stripper convention in Myrtle Beach, you already know his resistance is futile. Naturally, he hops aboard their modified food truck, and the journey of six-packs and banana-hammocks begins.
Magic Mike XXL takes the familiar road trip concept and adds muscle shirts and bulging biceps to the mix as the guys joke around and do bro stuff at various beaches and pools on their way from Florida to South Carolina. This time around, Mike isn’t the only one with big dreams and a little character development. Along the way, Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello) laments his inability to find a woman due to…well, the nickname says it all. The guys urge him not to give up and to search for his “glass slipper” along the way to Myrtle. Ken (Matt Bomer) might have the body of a sculpted god, but he longs to explore his music career and do more than just take his clothes off on stage. Similarly, Tito (Adam Rodriguez) wants to start a fro-yo business, and Tarzan (Kevin Nash) is revealed to be the sensitive artist type. Still, the guys feel boxed in and bound to do their old schtick despite being abandoned by Dallas (Matthew McConaughey) and the kid (Alex Pettifer), whose absences are explained in a couple throwaway lines. But these guys are more than just strippers, Mike explains. They’re “male entertainers” and they can bring new levels of creativity to their on-stage seduction.
Part of this inspiration comes from a visit to Domina, a Savannah club owned and operated by the sensuous Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith). Rome hosts some of the hottest male entertainers in the game, guys who can get the women to make it rain with their clothes on while showcasing their amazing moves or even, in the case of Andre (Donald Glover), reciting freestyle poetry. This excursion clearly serves as a way to inject some color into what has previously been a relatively white franchise, but hot dudes are hot dudes, so I’m all for it. Sure, the entire sequence at Domina seems entirely improbable if not downright impossible, but this is kind of what we want in a Magic Mike sequel. If the first movie attempted to give us a semi-realistic view into the lives of Tampa strippers, this one throws reality out the window and plays out like one of those early 2000s dance movies, which was where Tatum got his start. It seems like they finally realized the Steven Soderbergh approach was unnecessary when we mostly just want to see abs, which might explain why Soderbergh has moved from a directing to producing position on XXL.
I could continue to tell you about the “plot” of Magic Mike XXL, but that’s not why we’re here. Chances are, if you’re waiting in line for this movie, things like story and character development aren’t exactly the primary draw. In the words of Chris Rock, “No one goes to Hooters for wings.” This is about men with abs you could wash your clothes on grinding to a beat while wearing very little clothing—and it certainly delivers in that regard.
The final dance sequence showcases all the guys in creative ways. Tarzan incorporates his love of painting, Tito sports cornrows, Ken sings D’Angelo’s “Untitled (How Does it Feel)”, and Richie goes from tuxedo to sex swing. No complaints here, though I did wonder just what kind of multi-million dollar budget this stripper convention was boasting to accommodate performances that looked like something from a slightly scaled-back MTV VMAs. Naturally, Mike takes the stage last with Stephen “Twitch” Boss, who doesn’t have a speaking part, and the two perform a mirror image dance that was genuinely impressive. This also gives Mike a chance to grind on Zoe (Amber Heard), the new love interest he’s been flirting with sporadically throughout the film. This is what we came for, and it (mostly) makes the long journey to the stage worthwhile.
Let’s face it, Magic Mike XXL isn’t exactly an Oscar contender, and it’s not trying to be. Despite an unnecessarily long runtime, the movie still delivers enough of the goods (read: shirtless dudes with amazing bodies) to be enjoyable. Thankfully, this time it’s clear they were far less concerned with trying to awkwardly cram in a story and they let the guys do what male entertainers do best: entertain.