Review: Magic Mike XXL

Magic Mike XXL
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PLOT: Three years after ending his career as a “male entertainer” a nostalgic Magic Mike (Channing Tatum) reunites with his “kings of Tampa” cronies (Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Kevin Nash, Adam Rodriguez) for one last performance at a Myrtle Beach convention.

REVIEW: So, I think we can all agree that MAGIC MIKE was a pleasant surprise, right? Even though a lot of us fanboys snickered when we heard Channing Tatum was making a stripper movie, it can’t be denied that the end result was way more SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER than SHOWGIRLS. When the inevitable sequel was announced, I’ll admit that I was on-board.

Sure enough, MAGIC MIKE XXL is pretty damn good! While Steven Soderbergh is no longer directing, the film maintains his gritty, grounded style – helped immeasurably by the fact that he’s back as both the DP (under his Peter Andrews pseudonym) and editor (as Mary Ann Bernard). His assistant director – Gregory Jacobs – is now at the helm and while this is less plot-driven that the first it’s just about as much fun.

It’s amazing how palatable Tatum and co-writer/producer Reid Carolin have made a film about strippers to a mainstream audience. Despite all the skin on display the movie feels remarkably wholesome. Maybe it’s that everyone involved seems to have such a good attitude. Magic Mike was an extremely likable, good-natured guy in the first and that’s also true of the sequel. As it opens, Mike is stressing over the fact that he can’t afford health-care for his one employee. Once he gets back to stripping, he does it less out of ego and more out of the fact that being truly great at something brings him so much joy. If he’s such a good stripper, than why shouldn’t he strip? And it has to be said, Tatum has got some crazy, gravity defying stripper moves.

While the rest of the fellas were more two-dimensional in the first film, here they get loads more screen time with everyone having an arc. Manganiello’s character is looking for love, while Bomer is being forced to come to terms with the fact that his days of coasting by on his looks are coming to an end. For his part, Rodriguez wants to open a food truck with their jovial sidekick - Gabriel Iglesias, while the fifty plus Kevin Nash (as Tarzan) is faced with the loneliness of getting old in a profession where there are no old men.

With everyone being at such a crossroads, you might assume this might be some kind of strippers elegy, but that’s not so. Rather, this is all about good times and fun. The joy these men bring to their profession is inspiring in that it’s rare someone finds that one thing they’re really good at. For what it’s worth, the guys are a pretty noble bunch, never taking sexual advantage of the ladies they entertain. They’re also very gay-friendly (something that was missing from the first film) taking some time to go party at a drag show. One of the nicest scenes has Manganiello do an impromptu striptease for a heavy-set supermarket cashier with his only goal being to make her smile.

MAGIC MIKE XXL’s heart being in the right place makes it a highly likable film, but it’s the technical skill behind the scenes that makes it a real must-see. Soderbergh’s photography is downright amazing, with some really creative lighting. The initial “meet-cute” between Mike and his new love-interest (played by the always gorgeous and likable Amber Heard) is shot in natural lighting, with this being one of the few night-time scenes that actually feels like its legitimately set at night, with no phony studio lighting. The camera movements are pretty grand, with only minimal cutting in the dance scenes, making it clear that Tatum and company are doing their own dancing and aren’t doubled at all.  

The final strippers convention is jaw-dropping as far as the staging goes, with each performance being a full-on production number that’s like an R-rated variation on the old-style production numbers we’d see in Golden Age Hollywood musicals (if Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire were still alive – I bet they’d be impressed). Jada Pinkett Smith, as the new MC (sharing a torrid past with Mike – the man she knew as “White Chocolate”), is an inspired addition, as is her stable of dancers, with Donald Glover as a singing performer and professional dancer Stephen "tWitch" Boss coming along to help-out their new pals – furthering the real sense of camaraderie (there are no rivals in Magic Mike’s world – only friends).

Despite the first film’s success, I know there are still a bunch of you out there that are going to be reluctant to see this but trust me when I say this is good, mainstream adult entertainment in the best sense of the word. Male, female, gay, straight – in the end it really doesn’t matter. No matter what you are you’ll likely have a blast watching the Kings of Tampa do their thing. That said all you guys bringing dates will probably be looking to hit the gym after. It wouldn’t surprise me if theaters showing this find their lobbies crowded with guys doing push-ups after the credits roll.

Source: JoBlo.com



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