This review is reworked from the original featured at SameSame.
Channing Tatum is back with his buddies – and minus his shirt – and they’re going on the road in Magic Mike XXL. Let’s start for a moment with that title, which is so keen at setting the goofy tone of the whole enterprise as well as following in the grand tradition of sequel titles actively referring to a character’s genitals like Goldmember and, ahem, City Slickers 2: The Legend of Curly’s Gold*. A franchise spin-off featuring Joe Manganiello’s ‘Big Dick Ritchie’ would see roman numerals back in a big way.
Now, as crazy as it is to imagine anybody being on the fence about whether they will venture out into the cold winter night to get all hot and bothered at the multiplex, we still have to try and say something to earn our money. “Earning money” is certainly something that Tatum and co. do here as they parade around in as little clothing as possible to work up your thirst. In the first five minutes alone we get a healthy dose of Tatum’s sweaty arms and thrusting hips as well as Joe Manganiello’s bare butt. Throughout you’ll see Matt Bomer down to his g-string, Adam Rodriguez shooting whipped cream from his crotch, and some of the finest fit stripping extras up there on the big screen. Channing’s charm is the film’s best asset beyond his bare flesh because it would be easy to be turned off by a film full of the sort of douchebag muscle queens you find at the gym on a daily basis, but while he may look like Kryten from Red Dwarf’s human cousin, but he still has the appeal of the high school jock that is nice to everyone and who everyone likes. Consider Zac Efron in Neighbours, but if he was actually a person you’d like to hang out with beyond locker-room ogling.
Director Gregory Jacobs – Steven Soderbergh’s go-to first assistant director whose previous directorial works were the English-language remake of Nine Queens and a thriller starring Emily Blunt that nobody saw – was wise to take the rise in popularity of its supporting actors, predominantly Manganiello and Bomer, and increase their roles. The former, especially, gives the film’s best and certainly most eye-poppingly memorable performance and shows off some superb comedic chops that show he should be a bigger star and more than just “that guy from True Blood”. His solo dance in a roadside convenience store is the film’s best scene and shows off not only his body, but his personality and his shameless comic timing. Bomer, too, gets some surprising dramatic moments in particular one involving a conversation with Donald Glover in which they discuss post-stripping work and he explains “I’m still pretty” to which the world responds with a resounding “Yes!”
The best new element to the Magic Mike formula is surprisingly Jada Pinkett-Smith! With Matthew McConaughey (and Alex Pettyfer, too) gone, the greatly under-utilised actress slides in and is a hoot as the female-empowering queen emcee. And in a small role, Andie MacDowell is even more surprising as a southern lush whose “Dayum!” at the tough of Joe Manganiello is something all audiences will likely be able to relate to.
It’s hard to be consistently entertained by a two-hour film where people discuss life and failures and walk down an industry memory lane most of us will have no experience in, but Magic Mike XXL finds a way. If you’re looking for the post-GFC themes of socio-economic uncertainty like the first then you’re going to be disappointed, and you’ll probably be raising genuine concerns like “I hope those women who got covered in chocolate sauce and whip cream brought a change of clothes” or wondering why they make fun of a Twilight themed stripper show to then turn around to use 50 Shades of Grey in their act, but if what you want is playfulness, energy, goofy glee, and a complete and utter lack of pretentiousness then Magic Mike is a Trojan (Horse) full of fun.
* That was a joke, folks.