My plan was to write a review for the first ‘Magic Mike’ film and then give my verdict on ‘Magic Mike XXL’. But there was very little that I could say about the first film apart from the obvious; hot guys, gyrating to funky sounds and Matthew McConaughey with the best set of abs I’ve ever seen. However, ‘Magic Mike XXL’ is quite the pleasant surprise. This time there’s a tangible story, with a tight script and accomplished direction from Gregory Jacobs, as well as excellent choreography. Sadly, no Mr McConaughey this time though.
Both ‘Magic Mike’ films star Channing Tatum, who used to be a real life male entertainer (by which I mean stripper), and Tatum has always wanted to make a film about that episode in his life. As a dancer, Tatum found on-screen recognition with ‘Step Up’ and went on to write, produce and star in ‘MMXXL’. Having firmly established himself as a credible actor – with his portrayal of Mark Schultz in ‘Foxcatcher’ – Tatum has let his hair down and indulged in what is essentially scantily-clad parkour in front of an obliging audience.
The story centres around Mike Lane (Tatum) who has retired from the world of male entertainment. Three years later, his buddies, known as The Tampa Kings, are passing through town on their way to a stripper convention at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Mike pines for the excitement of his old life now that he’s running his own business and so he decides to take off for the weekend and join his friends for one last mad show. On the way, he hooks up with Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith), an old flame from back in the day, who is now running her own exclusive club in Jacksonville. This is the best role that Pinkett Smith has ever appeared in – not hard you might be thinking – but she is sexy and commanding in her role as the MC for the Tampa Kings’ last blast at fame.
The great thing about ‘MMXXL’ is that there are literally no boring parts. Plus there are some great cameo performances from Amber Heard Depp, Andie MacDowell and the aforementioned Jada Pinkett Smith. This is, in a sense, a glorified road trip movie. We are hurriedly taken through some of the poorest parts of the Southern States, giving a respectable gloss and humanising an industry which would have strident feminists foaming at the mouth, if it were lap-dancers being depicted of course.
I went to see this film during the week, around lunchtime, and the auditorium was packed with gaggles of girls and middle-aged women, plus a sizeable percentage of gay men in couples. That’s probably an accurate overview of the demographic for the ‘Magic Mike’ films. But the film doesn’t try to be anything more than it is – 130 minutes of eye-candy and laugh out loud moments. It’s a celebration, and none of the writers have tried to complicate it with obstacles or last minute disasters that have to be overcome in order to reach the climax (sorry). In that respect it’s very easy to watch ‘MMXXL’. Andie McDowell is just great as the Southern Belle cougar mommy, with more time and money on her hands now that she’s divested herself of her secretly gay husband. And she likes to drink. In fact everybody in this film likes to drink. Whether that is Hollywood code for “you have to be off your face to be a stripper and/or to enjoy watching strippers”, I don’t know. But every show that the guys turn up for in ‘MMXXL’ tellingly featured inebriated hen parties, or excitable women just celebrating and letting their hair down.
Finally, we must also acknowledge Steven Soderbergh’s input to the ‘Magic Mike’ films. The ‘Sex, Lies And Videotape’ director (his debut film, which also featured Andie McDowell) is a prolific and highly successful film veteran. His work may not always hit the mark, but he has a knack of judging the zeitgeist and being at least one step ahead of the rest. If a production credits Soderbergh, whether it’s producing, directing, editing or one of his many other talents, you can bet that I will be watching. ‘MMXXL’ may have a lot of critics, but as of July 1st 2015, the film has grossed over $100 million worldwide. That’s a lot of people voting with their feet, and probably a lot more viewers once it goes to DVD and the film can be watched in secret!
Director: Gregory Jacobs
Starring: Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Elizabeth Banks, Andie McDowell