Sunday, July 5, 2015

Review: Magic Mike XXL

Image courtesy of Warner Bros. 
Steven Soderbergh's 2012 film, "Magic Mike," was a bonafide sleeper - an entertaining, witty and substantive picture about a male stripper that was based loosely on the experiences of its star, Channing Tatum, and featured an excellent supporting performance by Matthew McConaughey, who was just in the beginning of his McConaissance.

This sequel, set three years later and sorely missing McConaughey as Dallas, is mostly just cashing in on the success of the first movie. It's not a bad movie per se, but it's missing something, despite a few solid sequences.

The plot of "Magic Mike XXL" is paper thin. Our titular hero is now running the small-time furniture business he dreamed of founding in the first film and has been out of the stripping business for a few years. However, we find out that the relationship between Mike and Brooke (Cody Horn, missing this time out as well) did not pan out and that he is, essentially, a free agent. This, of course, enables him to drop everything he is doing to join his former crew (Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, et al) and travel to Myrtle Beach for the - wait for it - "strippers' convention." Yes, there is apparently one of those.

On the way to their destination, they make several stops, two of which involve the picture's most engaging sequences. The first visit is to a former pal of Mike's named Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith), who is the MC and owner of an all-black male strip club somewhere in Savannah. Mike and his friends attempt to enlist Rome to replace Dallas, whom we are told has taken his business overseas. This sequence wins points for atmosphere as Rome's club visually looks like something you'd more expect in a film by David Lynch or Nicolas Winding Refn. Plus, the film's best dance sequence takes place here.

The second best - but also, the most absurd - sequence in the film occurs in Charleston, where Mike and his friends stop by the home of a young woman named Zoe (Amber Heard), who has caught Mike's eye. However, Zoe's randy mother (Andie MacDowell) and her friends take a shine to the strippers and some of the movie's funniest moments occur here. Unfortunately, the film's cheesiest bit also goes down in this scene when one of the strippers, in all sincerity, sings Bryan Adams to one of the women.

So, yes, "Magic Mike XXL" is pretty unnecessary - not bad, but not exactly warranted either. The first film took its subject matter seriously and resulted in a good movie, whereas the second is just giving its audience what it wants, which I don't think I have to spell out for you here.

And the final sequences at the stripping convention are pretty conventional, especially on the heels of the earlier - and more successful moments - in Savannah and Charleston. Tatum is a likable movie star and, I'd imagine, it sounded like a fun idea for him to revisit this character, but it's probably not necessary to do it a third time.

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