Film Review: Magic Mike XXL (MA15+, USA, 2015)

So let’s get one thing straight from the get-go with this film, this is a movie about a bunch of “male entertainers” (aka strippers) so it’s a given that it’ll be a basic story and be overloaded with a lot of attractive semi-naked men in it. If you’re coming for anything more meaningful than that, you’re going to be disappointed. Also be warned, it’s a guarantee that the audience will consist of almost all women, most of whom will probably shriek every time one of the stars even so much as twitches a hip.

Mike Lane (Channing Tatum) has his furniture making business and it’s keeping him busy. But occasionally late at night when Ginuwine’s “Pony” happens to come on the radio he remembers the glory days of when he was a male stripper. A not so coincidental phone call from Tarzan (Kevin Nash) manages to coerce him to meet up with the rest of the Kings of Tampa – Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello), Ken (Matt Bomer), Tito (Adam Rodriguez) and their MC Tobias (Gabriel Iglesias) where they decide to get the group back together for one last hurrah at the male stripper’s convention in Myrtle Beach. On their way to the convention of course, not everything goes to plan and the guys have to learn to put the past behind them. As per with any good road trip odyssey type movie.

Unlike the first film directed by Steven Soderbergh, that has a more dramatic angle and tends to focus on Mike’s desire to escape the stripper stigma; Magic Mike XXL prefers to wholeheartedly embrace its ridiculousness. Writer Reid Carolin and director Gregory Jacobs prefer to push this film as a comedy and really it is, but there also happens to be a lot of abs and pecs and biceps on show. It knows who the target audience is and purposefully plays up to it, I’m pretty sure that the only straight males that would appreciate this film would be men who are dancers. There are some genuinely hysterical moments, the best of course being the scene in the petrol station (gas station for the Americans) where Mike challenges Richie to do a dance for the attendant to try to make her crack a smile. This scene which goes for about 4 minutes is a stroke of comedic timing perfection mashed with a brilliantly choreographed dance routine performed by Joe Manganiello. I’ll never be able to look at a pack of Cheetos or a bottle of water the same way ever again.

And truth be told, if you can briefly avert your eyes from the shirtlessness and take a minute to watch the choreography you can see that those are some pretty sweet dance moves the guys are kicking out. Tatum’s former life as a stripper and dancer is the basis for the first film, and carries into the second. His scene near the start of the film (that also featured in the teaser trailer) that pays tribute to Flashdance is but one that showcases just how good a dancer he is. I caught myself on several occasions questioning how exactly somebody with that large physicality can perform those sorts of intricate dance moves. And each of the guys get their own little moments to shine in the film, but it’s predominantly Manganiello and Tatum who get the most screen time. Donald Glover (of Community fame and aka musician Childish Gambino) gets to show off his rapping and singing skills as well as his bare chest in this too which is a nice bonus.

For a film saturated with men though Jada Pinkett Smith’s character Rome gets to hold some power over Mike. Not to mention that despite being so physically tiny in comparison to her costars she still manages to almost steal every scene she’s in, what a goddess. Andie McDowell’s cougar Nancy Davidson is the epitome of Southern Sass and she too like Smith manages to hold her own in the short time she’s onscreen. Their arrival into the film shakes things up and is a refreshing change to all the testosterone being bandied about. Annoyingly though I was hoping Amber Heard’s Zoe would eventuate into someone who had an interesting backstory but it kinda fizzed out and went nowhere even though they desperately tried hard to make her into some sort of flirtatious love interest for Mike.

What I’m still a little confused about is that final dance sequence and how each of them is embracing the lives they want to lead in their performances. Tarzan’s desire to be an artist, Tito wants to open up his own frozen yoghurt food truck, Ken wants to be a singer. But when we reach Big Dick Richie he goes from romantic mini marriage to Fifty Shades of Grey BDSM with his chosen audience participant. Whilst Magic Mike partners up with Malik to do like a synchronised mirror dance routine. Is that supposed to be some sort of narcissist play on Mike’s love for his own dancing abilities? Or that he believes that deep down he’s an African American dancer? I’m just going to try to not think about it too hard and go back to staring at all the pelvic thrusting going on.

Magic Mike XXL is nearly 2 hours’ worth of gratuitous semi-naked men gyrating and thrusting and dancing that is genuinely hilarious. It has a simple story, but it’s unnecessary in the grand scheme of things. It’s got a couple of strong female characters, but I’m pretty sure that the majority of women in the audience didn’t notice either way. It’s blatantly obvious what this movie is here to do, it’s all there on the packaging. Though I think they should’ve changed the tagline to “So. Many. Abs.”. Hot damn.

Review Score: THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Running Time: 115 minutes

Magic Mike XXL screens in Australian cinemas from 9 July 2015 through Warner Bros Pictures