They pretty, but they talk too much.
That (!) is the lesson from this weekend’s eagerly awaited Magic Mike XXL, the sequel to the summer 2012 pleaser of crowds, Magic Mike.
Actually, that little nugget of knowledge began to sink in while watching the movie, a rather terrible thing to have happen, for it completely takes ya outta the moment. And I do mean it gets in the way of enjoying all the T&A (thrusting and abs) that the marketing department behind the production have been selling us.
This is a movie about strippers – pardon, a movie about male entertainers. It ought to be fun and definitely not necessarily lesson-imparting.
Not that Channing Tatum & Co.’s second working of the pole ain’t a romp (at times). It absolutely is...when his back-from-retirement Magic Mike and his sexy bros are, in fact, dancing and shaking it, not when they’re trying to make us care about them. Ahem, we want pecs, not the rich inner workings of Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello).
See, much as it was the case with the original, helmed by Steven Soderbergh (who, btw, has remained involved with the bound-for-Broadway franchise, serving as an executive producer on Magic Mike XXL and as its invaluable cinematographer), this part deux suffers from a sort of split personality disorder. It obviously wants to be everything skinstastic it has been promising and an effective indie-esque story about getting yourself out of a funk (lemme just say things haven’t exactly turned into a Norman Rockwell painting for our protagonist).
That plot-against-thongs conflict was more easily overlooked three years ago because Matthew McConaughey was on board stirring things up for Mike (and Tatum). McConaughey’s oily Dallas owned the joint in which our guy danced, and, thus, he kinda owned the budding furniture designer by day, man o’ fantasy by night. Given the twangin’ actor’s Academy Award-winning McConaissance, Magic Mike XXL has to go sans Dallas (Alex Pettyfer’s newbie stripper’s gone, too), and without an antagonist, which is NBD since this one is all about this huge stripper convention in Myrtle Beach that, just like a siren, calls upon those good ol’ Tampa boys we made it rain for before.
Mike is lured back into the fold for one last hurrah, resolves outstanding animosities with the crew, especially with the more-fleshed-out-as-a-character Ken (Matt Bomer), and, because this is a sequel that requires more, more, more! and bigger, too, he recruits an old and special acquaintance played by Jada Pinkett Smith and tWitch to join in, as well as Amber Heard, Andie McDowell, Elizabeth Banks.
The result is yet another movie that’s not quite sure what it really wants to be, and an enjoyable-enough time at the movies.
For hot time, this one’s much too not for its own good, which so makes me doubt the possibility of a threequel titled Magic Mike 3-D.
My Rating **1/2