MAGIC MIKE XXL review by Mark Walters – Channing Tatum & crew are back

MAGIC MIKE XXL review by Mark Walters – Channing Tatum & crew are back

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The world of stripping is one that almost begs investigation, as while on the surface it may just be sexual entertainment, but behind the scenes there’s a lot more to it than many might expect. The first MAGIC MIKE movie attempted to show some of the good and bad aspects, and create a commentary on that lifestyle, though it barely scratched the surface in the end. In MAGIC MIKE XXL, most of the main players are back, but this time it’s just all about having a good time.

Mike (Channing Tatum) has moved away from his old exotic dancer ways, trying to make a modest construction business work financially, but finding it hard to keep going. His girlfriend from the first movie refused his marriage proposal, and the misguided young man seems to be severely discontent. He receives a call from one of his old dancer buddies Tarzan (Kevin Nash), informing him that Dallas (Matthew McConaughey’s character from the first film) has passed away, and Mike is wanted for the wake. So he drives to a hotel looking for the crew, who are partying at the pool without a care in the world. Turns out the wake story was just a way to get their old friend to show up. Everyone is thrilled to see Mike, but he sees them as a life he’s moved away from, just friends from the past. Back at home, as a familiar song comes on the radio, Mike jumps right back into his old dance routine not missing a single step… only now there’s no audience. Knowing his buds are planning a trip to a big stripper convention in hopes of winning some cash, he decides to come out of retirement and hit the road with them. Along the way they must re-bond, see some friends, and enlist the help of an old flame – and you better believe there’s plenty of dancing in between.

This sequel doesn’t pretend or even attempt to be much more than what’s on the surface, just a bunch of hunky stripper dudes on a road trip, doing what they do best. Channing Tatum may be the lead of the film, but the script makes time for each and every principal player in this outing, giving the guys individual chances to shine. Joe Manganiello and Matt Bomer’s roles are particularly expanded this time out, perhaps due to their current popularity in mainstream media – and it’s clearly the right choice, as both have wonderful moments in the screenplay. We also have some new faces peppered in, like Jada Pinkett Smith as a strip club boss they go to for help, Donald Glover as one of her star attractions, and popular faces like Elizabeth Banks and Michael Strahan also show up briefly. Amber Heard also stars as a confident female lead meant to play opposite Mike in character building scenes, but the film thankfully never weakens her role to that of a simple love interest – a refreshing aspect of this otherwise light story. Jada Pinkett Smith seems to be having the most fun, vamping it up as the former colleague and possible former flame of Mike, now tasked with being their hype host for the convention they’re heading to. Make no mistake, this is still Tatum’s movie and he does own the performance, but director Gregory Jacobs does an excellent job of making sure everyone gets their fair share of the spotlight.

MAGIC MIKE XXL could be looked at as a road trip film, or perhaps just a buddy comedy. There’s very few serious moments, and pretty much no scenes that show the darker side of the profession. Even scenes that involve setbacks or accidents are played for laughs and never have a sense of urgency or concern. This installment keeps it fun and funny, pushing for an entertaining ride with the audience. At times it feels a bit too pleasant, almost making us long for some sequence of severe conflict, if only to make the script more interesting. Now if I’m being honest, this film obviously isn’t made for me, but the women anxious to see it will likely love it. Our crowd was particularly enthusiastic, as the studio opted to have real La Bare dancers come in and dance shirtless within the audience for 15 minutes before the movie started. Yeah… that crowd was a little rowdy as a result. But hey, in an age where dudes like me get new STAR WARS, TERMINATOR and tons of superhero movies all the time, I can’t begrudge the ladies for having fun with something like this. This is a movie made for the intended audience only, so trying to judge it as a typical film almost seems pointless. That said, I did have a good time watching others watch it play out.

I still wish we could see a movie that explored all of the aspects of the stripper world in detail, the good and the sometimes very bad, and still working as an entertaining box office experience. It was poorly done to an epic degree with SHOWGIRLS, and the first MAGIC MIKE almost got it right, but it’s clear the sequel isn’t trying to pull back the curtain perhaps for worry of spoiling the mindless fun. For those wanting a little more truth and realism, I’d strongly recommend watching the excellent documentary LA BARE directed by none other than Joe Manganiello, which really shows you just what all these guys have to put up with to maintain this lifestyle. It’s not often pretty, but almost always utterly fascinating.

MAGIC MIKE XXL opens July 1, 2015

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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started Bigfanboy.com, which has become one of the Dallas film community’s leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and Bigfanboy.com regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.