In 2012, I found Magic Mike to be a mostly effective star vehicle for Channing Tatum as a somewhat autobiographical tale of his dancing past. Somewhat surprisingly, he was able to enlist Oscar winning director Steven Soderbergh to bring it to the screen. While I recognize I was far from the film’s target audience, I was able to appreciate its fresh subject matter, even if the screenplay didn’t always deliver. Where it did – Tatum’s turn in the lead and a wildly entertaining supporting performance for Matthew McConaughey in the midst of his career resurgence.
His own Academy Awards glory and busy schedule keeps Mr. McConaughey out of Magic Mike XXL and the absence of his presence is not all right, all right, all right. Also gone is Magic Mike’s understudy Adam (Alex Pettyfer) and his sister Brooke (Cody Horn) who was our title character’s love interest. Gone too (kind of) is Soderbergh, who handed over directorial duties to Gregory Jacobs, but he still handles the cinematography and executive produces.
Watching XXL, I could never shake the feeling that this is a sequel its star and producers probably never figured they’d make. While the original brought audiences into a world you don’t often see portrayed on screen, XXL feels been there, done that with really nothing more to say. Many sequels have the odor of being completely unnecessary and this is one of them.
The pic starts three years after we last left Mike as he continues to get his custom furniture business off the ground. He’s hung up his G string and checked his signature dance moves while recently becoming single after being rebuffed by Brooke. Mike is soon lured back to his band of merry dude strippers for one last event (a Myrtle Beach convention) and their journey there leads to what could be dubbed Magic Mike: Road Trip!!
Along the way, this extremely episodic and poorly paced experience leads them to an African American club owned by an annoyingly overacting Jada Pinkett Smith, to a cougar filled house party that includes Andie MacDowell, and to Mike’s interacting with a new kind of, sort of love interest in an underwritten subplot with Amber Heard. The other boys in the group get perfunctory and dull storylines like Matt Bomer’s longed for singing career.
It all left me with one overall feeling: the world didn’t need a second dose of this. I guess everything about Magic Mike that needed to be said was done so in 2012 and this listless affair proves it. For the female (and male) fans of the original, perhaps the climactic dance grooves at the convention will merit its existence. My suggestion would be to just watch the first one again. It’s no masterpiece, but it almost looks like it compared to this.
*1/2 (out of four)