Magic Mike was a surprise hit back in 2012 and became an overnight sensation, catapulting Matt Bomer, Channing Tatum, ex-wrestler Kevin Nash and Joe Mangianello into the fantasies of just about everyone with their dance moves and perfectly-toned abs. Although, on the surface, the film was essentially an hour and a half of oiled-up bros dancing to ’90s hip-hop, there was an intriguing story about being true to your aspirations instead of taking the easy route. The title character, Magic Mike, was a talented furniture designer and dreams of being his own boss.
The sequel, imaginatively titled Magic Mike XXL, takes place three years after and finds Channing Tatum’s character running his own business and, it would seem, struggling to make ends meet. When he’s contacted by his former dance troupe who passing through, he’s reinvigorated by their presence and decides to set off with them as they head for Myrtle Beach’s annual striiper convention. Yes, that’s a thing. Initially, there’s tension between them regarding Mike up and leaving, however one hilarious sequence sees them taking MDMA and patching things up with a dance routine in a truck stop. The film is made up a series of vignettes, stopping along the way and hooking with old flames (Jada Pinkett Smith) and divorced housewives (Andie MacDowell in foul-mouthed form).
As well as this, it’s punctuated by extended dance sequences with screaming women and dollar bills thrown like confetti, introducing Donald Glover AKA Childish Gambino as a singing stripper who truly believes he can heal women with his ‘art’. Jada Pinkett Smith sizzles as Rome, an MC with Tatum’s character shares a history with. After a particularly raunchy audition at her own strip club, she’s convinced to join them on the trip to Myrtle Beach. There’s also a half-baked subplot with Amber Heard as former stripper-turned-photographer who’s ‘trying to keep away from the pole’, but it’s only referenced here and there.
Tatum hasn’t lost his ability to focus your attention whilst Bomer is given more screen-time, but does little with it. Mangianello acts as the comedic foil whilst Nash’s character is humanised and developed. Jada Pinkett Smith is clearly enjoys playing the sultry type and this is no exception. Heard, on the other hand, is washed out by everyone else and rarely leaves a mark except for one scene involving the difference between cake and cookies with Tatum. What makes Magic Mike XXL is the comedy that arises through nothing scenes. Whether it’s talking about their proposed business ventures or Bomer’s Eastern philosophies, the laughs come easily because it’s all so naturalistic.
Like the first one, there’s a bit more going underneath the surface. Mike’s magic has left him as his business struggles and his relationship, the one he left the stripping game behind for, has crumbled. For him, the trip is about finding a reason to keep going and find enjoyment in life and earthly pleasures again. For Joe Mangianello, Kevin Nash, Matt Bomer and the rest of them, it’s one final ride before they set off on their own. While the film lacks some of the subtlety of the original, there’s still an interesting story about the powers of friendship and putting your passion into your work. It just happens to feature lots of guys doing stuff that’s illegal in certain countries.
Overall, Magic Mike XXL is an entertaining romp. It may fizzle in places and some of the dance sequences are gratuitously long, as well as underdeveloped subplots. Sure, people may dismiss it out of hand as a hen night movie, but there’s a bit more to it than just that. There’s a story about friendship and how fun and frivolity can sometimes be just the ticket to get you out of a rut. Also, if you’ve ever wondered what a strip routine set to Nine Inch Nails’ Closer would look like, this is also for you.