Director: Gregory Jacobs
Cast: Channing Tatum, Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Kevin Nash, Adam Rodriguez, Gabriel Iglesias, Amber Heard, Donald Glover, Stephen "tWitch" Boss, Michael Strahan
Release Date: July 1st, 2015
Magic Mike XXL feels less like a sequel to a 2012 sleeper hit and more than a bland television episode of a show that’s aged past its prime. In the original film, the characters were growing as they welcomed in an addition to their strip club show. In the sequel, the characters are simply existing as they travel up the East Coast to a stripper convention in Charleston.
After three years of following his dream of building custom-made furniture, Mike (Channing Tatum) is living a calm, normal and relaxed life. In fact, the first scene shows him sitting on the beach as if he’s comfortably settled into his new life. Soon enough though, his former crew— who have stopped in Tampa for the night— have tempted him back into his old life.
Mike doesn’t align with them to make money or to reignite his old lifestyle. He just wants to take a break from his current circumstances. The concept is predictable enough and it gives writer Reid Carolin an opportunity to tell a new story about this crew of male strippers. Carolin never fully takes the team on a true adventure though.
He moves the characters from location to location without a real sense of fun or purpose. The whole road trip is episodic in nature with the characters never pausing too long at one location to tell a good story or delve into new characters.
The supporting characters here do have a better opportunity to reveal themselves though with Matt Bomer and Joe Manganiello stepping up respectively in their supporting roles as Ken and Big Dick Richie. When these characters are showing their appreciation for women who feel undervalued, the movie offers up a few heartfelt scenes but such glimpses aren’t enough to overcome the movie’s artificial plot.
Tatum does a solid job in the lead role once again and has a few scenes to show off his dancing skills. One noteworthy one occurs early on when— working in his shop— he starts dancing around, remembering the love he once had for his previous profession. The direction by Gregory Jacobs, though, lacks the technique and abilities that Steven Soderbergh brought to the original feature. Jacobs just offers the audience a flimsy glimpse into this unique world, never really exploring it deeply.
Some of the events are easily forgettable— such as a car crash early on— but others (including a stop in a house of adult entertainment and a visit to a residence where a few women are enjoying a few bottles of win) offer an interesting glimpse into what this film could have been. If it had remained still in some of these situations, it could’ve really explored these characters and some of these new supporting players. Jada Pinkett Smith and Andie McDowell help lend these scenes some credibility but their scenes are all too brief (although thankfully Smith has more to do in the third act) to pack a true punch.
The original Magic Mike wasn’t magical in any sense but it was fun, carefree and risky. The studio behind the original were taking a risk and so were some of the actors– especially Tatum and Matthew McConaughey– who were trying to create something unique and fun. That risk is gone here.
For a film about taking risks and putting it all out there in a show, this movie is far too cautious for its own good.
Review by: John Hanlon