Magic Mike XXL (2015)
Back to the grind.
Who’s ready for an encore? With the original Magic Mike (2012) helmer Steven Soderbergh having officially retired from the directing game — he serves as a cinematographer and editor here — Magic Mike XXL is directed by Emmy Award winner Gregory Jacobs, a filmmaker who served as a producer on the first Magic Mike as well as numerous other features in a long-running collaboration with Soderbergh. Living up to its extra-extra-large claim, Magic Mike XXL is the second installment in the life of ‘Magic’ Mike Lane (Channing Tatum), and takes place three years after his retirement from the male stripper scene. With Mike now following his dreams of working as his own boss as a carpenter, things don’t seem to be going quite as well as he had initially hoped. After a phone call from his old pal Tarzan (Kevin Nash) — a male stripper from the Kings of Tampa — advising him that the troupe’s former MC, Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), has passed away, the unsuspecting Mike heads to the wake, not knowing what he is about to step into.
Our leading man swiftly discovers that the phone call was just a guise in order to get Mike back together with his old Kings of Tampa crew — including Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello), pretty-boy Ken (Matt Bomer), Latino sensation Tito (Adam Rodriguez), wild-man Tarzan (Kevin Nash) and their new MC, Tobias (comedian Gabriel Iglesias). Now with the entire gang back together, bar Dallas — who had packed up and left the Kings high and dry — the group inform Mike that they are about to embark on one last crazy ride to the stripper convention at Myrtle Beach – an event that is every bit as outrageous as it sounds. Though intrigued by the simple idea of getting back to his stripper roots, Mike hesitantly turns away and returns to the new life he has forged for himself. It’s at this point that viewers see Mike alone in his house and then working in his building shed. Here we are rekindled with the old ‘Magic Mike,’ whereby Ginuwine’s silky-smooth ‘Pony’ takes over the airways and compels Mike to ‘grind’ away with his power tools. What follows is a dance routine that one shouldn’t try at home! Prompted by his prior signature tune, Magic Mike decides to join his ex-crew, and thus the adventure begins.
This is where Magic Mike XXL differs — for the better — from the first film. Whereby the original outing dealt with the drugs and sex synonymous within the Male Stripper industry, this continuation is ultimately an energetic road trip picture that sees the lads bond over unfulfilled dreams whilst highlighting the mischief and mayhem they encounter along the way — traveling from Central Florida, up through Georgia and finishing in South Carolina — with the absence of Matthew McConaughey being scarcely noticed. There are a number of moments in the film that are laugh-out-loud hysterical, including a ‘dance sequence’ that will likely impact how audiences feel about gas station mini-marts forever — not to mention chips and water bottles. Furthermore, while commuting to their destination, the troop cautiously makes a decision to use their own individual personas for their final hurrah. With the old routines gone — out the window in more ways than one — each group member plans to bring to the stage a personalized performance which incorporates and mixes their own unique style, experience and imagination.
This follow-up plays out like a series of mini adventures with viewers meeting a number of fun but unnecessary new side players along the way. We come across the elusive Zoe (Amber Heard), the new woman in Mike’s life — who carries her own demons from the past — a weary photographer whom Mike is determined to get smiling. We spend some time with Southern Belle, Nancy Davidson (Andie MacDowell), an older woman who might just be Richie’s very own version of Cinderella. We also become acquainted with two other male strippers, Andre — Donald Glover from television’s Community (2009) — who is more of a romantic charmer than an actual stripper, and Malik (Stephen ‘tWitch’ Boss) who showcases his virtuosity in a solo before eventually dancing alongside Mike in the gang’s show-stopping final routine. The most significant new character — and by far one of the strongest performances in the film — is that of Rome, played by Jada Pinkett Smith, Collateral (2004). An impresario who owns a one-of-a-kind exotic entertainment palace — that is far removed from anything the guys know — Rome aids as the crew when they are searching for a new MC, following a crash that sees Tobias in hospital, unable to attend the convention. Although Pinkett Smith was apparently not the primary casting choice for the role, her strong female persona oozes sophistication, conveying the sexiness and strength required to bring her character to life. Finally, look out for Elizabeth Banks, Pitch Perfect (2012), who plays Paris, a convention gatekeeper who has her doubts about whether Mike still has his ‘magic.’
By the time the convention finally arrives audiences will no doubt be eagerly awaiting to see what the Kings of Tampa have cooked up for their Grand Finale — and what follows does not disappoint. Each of the crew gets an opportunity to bask in the spotlight with their own individual routine, one that suits their distinct personality and whilst the majority of the guys don’t actually ‘dance’ — their acts are more about seduction opposed to actual performance — each number truly brings down the house. Fortunately, the long awaited climax in which Magic Mike makes his comeback — with Mike and Malik essentially mirroring one another up on stage — is also nothing short of amazing. The hype surrounding the concluding dance sequence definitely stands up to scrutiny with the picture’s third act bringing about a number of sexy moves along with buckets of sweaty fan service.
Alas, the only disappointment in the final reel is that the Kings never actually ‘dance’ as an ensemble — the closing number appears to be constructed around each member’s individuality as opposed to their group dynamic. While we did see the boys perform together in the original outing, the men are in much better shape this time around, so one could only imagine just how amazing this scene might have been if it had eventually come about. Thankfully, the film concludes swiftly after the convention and never turns into a sappy ‘love story’ between Zoe and Mike — which I appreciate.
With picture’s primary audience being both females and gay men, Magic Mike XXL is a bona fide hoot, one that any gender can more-or-less enjoy, although I’m sure that the target demographic will appreciate the copious amounts of flashy, sexually arousing eye candy on display; honestly, Magic Mike XXL is about as close as Channing Tatum will ever get to starring in a porn film. An insight into male bonding, with the perks of watching scantily dressed hunks with amazing bods prance about and show-off some unbelievable moves, Magic Mike XXL is a ridiculously entertaining ride that boisterously celebrates sexuality and possesses a warm heart and some admittedly beautiful abs to boot. It’s both brawny and big-hearted! While some may disagree with me on my final point, the real star of this exuberantly wild flick is Joe Manganiello, even though the steamy Channing Tatum still delivers the sweltering crowd-pleasing goods. So ladies — and men for that matter — get out there and enjoy some of this Magic as one can’t wrong with an XXL!
3.5 / 5 – Great
Reviewed by L. Jackson
Magic Mike XXL is released through Roadshow Entertainment Australia