Magic Mike XXL
Directed by: Gregory Jacobs
Written by: Reid Carolin
Starring: Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer and Jada Pinkett Smith
Yes, of course the extra, extra large sequel to Magic Mike is overflowing with washboard abs, man-thongs and sexy, sticky dance numbers. It contains scenes of near orgiastic excess featuring Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer and many others, but XXL is also more about audience participation than its predecessor. It’s the pleasure in the (on-screen) crowds- their wide grins, frantic eyes and nervous laughter- that is a big part of what makes the movie such a contagious, refreshing burst of joy.
Much of XXL focuses on Mike (Channing Tatum, as effortlessly charismatic as ever) taking a spontaneous vacation from his now-successful furniture design business to road (s)trip to a male stripper convention in Myrtle Beach with some of the key players from the first movie. Taking the club away from them provides the movie with an electrifying freedom. Almost everything that ties them to that movie’s world- cell phones, old costumes, conflict – is thrown out the window here, often literally.
The major driving force of conflict in the first movie, the economic hardship that prevented Mike from pursuing his love of furniture-making, is gone here. The other dancers are trying to figure out what they’re going to do after the convention, which they’ve convinced themselves is going to be their farewell performance. (We’ll see if Warner Brothers agrees with that). Their biggest problem here is finding a way to get to the convention after they take ecstasy and crash the frozen yogurt truck they were using to get there.
Their performances evolve organically out of the trip, from a dance contest at a drag show to a jaw-dropping sequence inside an almost all-black pleasure house run by an MC from Mike’s past named Rome (a scene-stealing Jada Pinkett Smith). Both scenes give off a contact high, not just because director Gregory Jacobs frames them with wide shots that include the rapturous audience members but because of who is in those audiences.
The strip club dance scenes in Magic Mike, as sexy as they were, featured of a largely homogenized audience of white women. It made some people, me included, feel a bit isolated from their pleasure. Prominently putting gay men and women of color front and center in two of the sequel’s best scenes, and having them directly participate in the action, vastly improves that.
When the movie finally arrives at the big event, each of the principal dancers get a full sequence to themselves. This scene is awkwardly paced and goes on for a bit too long, almost like I’d imagine an actual male stripper convention to be. It’s almost as if Jacobs didn’t want to let any of the dancers feel shorted. However, it concludes with a show-stopping duet featuring Mike and one of Rome’s dancers that has them throwing around gleeful female audience members like rag dolls.
The woman Mike is dancing for here is his new sort-of love interest who pops up conveniently throughout the movie. Though they both are talented at what they do, (she’s a photographer, he’s… well, you know) they are unfulfilled romantically. The script doesn’t make a big deal out of it though. There’s no forced third act break-up like in the first movie; hell, they don’t even go on a date. Mike’s only real goal here is to make her smile, and in the end he succeeds. XXL has a similar goal, and it also succeeds.