It is very, very rare for a sequel to be better than the original film. Magic Mike was a surprisingly heartfelt film; almost a genderbent Pretty Woman. Magic Mike XXL still has some of the heart of its predecessor, but the production team have anticipated their audience accurately. We are light on plot and heavy on the hot and heavy dance sequences that are the reason this effort grossed nearly US$10 million on its opening day alone.
The thread holding this film together is the idea that all of the great things Mike (Channing Tatum) had going at the end of the first film – the job, the friends, the girl – have basically not worked out. He’s making good on his furniture business, but otherwise is pretty lonely. Under the guise of attending a funeral for previous boss Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), he meets up with his old troupe, the Kings of Tampa. Not five minutes into the film and the first naked rear end makes an appearance (thank you, Joe Manganiello). It turns out that Dallas hasn’t gone to the big stripper pole in the sky, he’s just taken The Kid (Alex Pettyfer) and gone off to China. The remaining Kings (Manganiello, Matt Bomer, Kevin Nash and Adam Rodriguez) are heading up to Myrtle Beach to attend an ostensibly legendary Stripper Convention. Lacking any particular roots (except his struggling business), Mike decides to go with them for one last ride.
What follows is your classic road trip bromance movie. There are some lingering, conflict-filled glances between Bomer and Tatum that suggest resentment and attempts to provide an emotional centre to the story. The topic of many conversations is what all of the “male entertainers” will do after this last big show. Despite being “built like Greek gods”, it would seem that these men have deep insecurities and low self-worth: all of which will be rectified through various stripteases along the road trip (keep an eye out for Cheetos and water in a gas station).
The helm this time around has been given to Gregory Reynolds, who wisely took the hot, fun and light route that everyone expected the first film to follow. It is nice to see the rest of the Kings develop a bit more personality beyond their stage personas, however, ultimately most of the plot devices are left unravelled.
A surprise stop in Georgia leads the crew and Mike to reunite with former boss/flame Rome, played by the dynamite Jada Pinkett-Smith. The detour features some of the highlights (Donald Glover as singer/stripper Andre) as well as the most voyeuristic sequences of the film. From here on in, the gentlemen are focused on demonstrating their talent as dancers, not just their visual appeal.
An absolute highlight is Andie MacDowell’s turn as a divorcee Southern Belle. No spoilers, but remember the phrase “glass slipper” – Cinderella gets X rated. There’s some excellent music and this is clearly a film that isn’t taking itself seriously. They’re well aware of their audience (it is a post-50 Shades of Grey world, after all) and play to it beautifully. Go with your friends and enjoy the grind.
Image source: Roadshow Films.