Published Jun 30, 2015For those looking for a summertime popcorn flick similar in scope to the Expendables franchise, but with less ailing action stars and over-the-top violence and more half-naked sexy beefcakes, look no further than Magic Mike XXL, the sequel to Steven Soderbergh's 2012 male stripper saga that amazingly manages to be even less dramatic and complicated than its original.
The film catches up with the titular Mike (Channing Tatum) three years later. Now a small business owner (but somehow even more jacked), his somewhat steady home life is thrown into disarray when he receives a call alerting him that one of his fellow dancers has passed away. When he finds out it was all a ruse to get him to party with a few of the previous performers at the club — Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello), Tarzan (former pro wrester Kevin Nash), Ken (Matt Bomer), Tito (Adam Rodriguez) and former strip club MC Tobias (comedian Gabriel Iglesias, who is conveniently ousted from the storyline to make room for more cheese-grater abs almost immediately) — he decides to join them on the road for one last hurrah and attempt to take the top prize at the national male stripper convention in Myrtle Beach.
It's all very silly and stupid, but it actually works. That's because, while the first Magic Mike had a bit of a sense of humour (they cast Alex Pettyfer in its lead role, after all), it also dealt with heavy subjects related to Western greed and capitalism. Magic Mike XXL, on the other hand, is far less self-serious and more self-aware. This time around, everyone knows the only people going to see this movie are looking for sexy stars taking their shirts off and having a bit of fanciful fun on camera, which is something the makers of this film obviously know quite well.
There is barely a shred of conflict throughout the entire story (except for one occasion where the crew's car breaks down, but that's simply used as a vehicle to get them to their next location, a private strip club where they are introduced to the film's biggest guest stars — former football player Michael Strahan and comedic actor-turned-musician Donald Glover — and are forced to strip to help further themselves on their journey to the convention). Instead, every plot point is designed to get them closer to nudity and you to pure ecstasy.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the film's final act, a nearly 20-minute long series of scenes involving back-to-back performances from the film's stars as they attempt to take the top spot at the national convention with a string of complex, mouth-watering routines (just wait for Tatum's grand finale, which feels like this film's version of Pitch Perfect's "Cups"). After a slow build throughout the entire film, Magic Mike XXL treats you to one huge, drawn-out climax in its final moments, and it is glorious.
But make no mistake: Magic Mike XXL is not a mind-blowing movie by any means. However, there is something special about a movie so aware of its audience, and — much like a perfectly worked out stripper routine — knows how to tease it and treat it right.