It's been three years since Tampa based Mike Lane transitioned from the life of a stripper - his stage name being Magic Mike - to his dream of starting his own custom furniture business, those three years mixed in terms of the goods and bads for him personally. His ex-troupe, the Kings of Tampa, minus who was their boss, Dallas, stop off in Tampa from their current home base in Miami on a road trip to a stripper convention in Myrtle Beach. As the remaining troupe members are nearing the end of their stripping lives, they, like Mike, who are at an advanced age beyond that of most strippers, they see this convention as their final hurrah in this life. Mike decides to join his old friends on the road trip to this send off. The current troupe members start to have their own dreams about their futures in being with Mike, while Mike has his own envy of his friends in his current life not being everything he hoped it would be. But especially without Dallas at the helm, the troupe members are...Written by
Occasionally fun, but ultimately forgettable stuff
After the cult success of Steven Soderbergh's Magic Mike (2012) - a loose adaptation of star Channing Tatum's experiences as a stripper (or male entertainer) early on in his career - it was of little surprise when a follow-up was announced. What made the first movie such a surprising success was the way it mixed the flashy dance moves with genuine character development, making for a touching and oddly sweet experience that also touched on themes such as the economy and the American Dream. For XXL, the focus seems to be solely on giving the audience what they want, and that means more abs, biceps and bulges.
However, this all means a half-arsed story-line that quickly finds a way to get 'Magic' Mike (Tatum) back with his gyrating buddies. The end of the first film saw Mike abandon the life he was never truly happy with and realising his dream of starting his own company selling custom-made furniture. The company is either struggling or about to take off, but it's clear that Mike is still unfulfilled, and when he receives a phone message from Tarzan (Kevin Nash), he is soon enough on the road to a stripper convention with 'Big Dick' Richie (Joe Manganiello), Ken (Matt Bomer), Tito (Adam Rodriguez) and Tobias (Gabriel Inglesias). That's generally it. Magic Mike XXL's main issue is that the story seems to fumble around trying to come up with interesting places to take its characters.
Very much a road movie at heart, the group find themselves encountering new characters along the way. With Cody Horn not returning (her disappearance is rather unconvincingly explained,) the love interest this time around is Zoe (Amber Heard), a gorgeous bohemian-type who doesn't seem to be put of by Mike's distinctly douchebag-y dress sense. There's also Andie MacDowell as a horny Southern lady who, along with her wine-guzzling friends, indulge in a private party. Mike also hooks up with his old friend/lover/colleague Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith), a sort-of stripper madame who hosts a house to entertain the ladies, and whose employees include the smooth-talking Andre (future young Lando Calrissian Donald Glover). There is sadly no return for Matthew McConaughey as Dallas or Alex Pettyfer as The Kid, who have apparently both eloped to Europe chasing a lucrative stripping deal. Gregory Jacobs also replaces Soderbergh as director.
The new characters provide to be little more than a distraction from the meandering plot, which forces Mike and his pals into a few moments of utter tedium. When the film stays with the guys and just allows them to shoot the s**t, it's actually very funny, and leads to the best scene of both movies by letting a pilled-up Richie loose on a grumpy-looking gas station clerk. By trying to do more by giving each character their own emotional arc, it actually holds back a film that would be better served giving the audience even more of what they really came for, stripping. Even for a straight male, the dance scenes are electrifying, with the climax delivering an all-out dance-a-thon that allows each character their moment to shine. It made me smile between the dull moments, but this is ultimately forgettable stuff.
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