“Magic Mike XXL” (opening in theaters July 1) might win the 2015 title for “most entertaining movie with the least amount of plot.” A movie this empty should not be this much fun.
In short: Magic Mike (Channing Tatum) and the remaining Kings of Tampa go on a road trip to a male stripping convention … stripping ensues along the way. (watch the trailer)
The aforementioned plot summary might sound flippant — but, it is pretty factually accurate. In regard to storytelling and narrative structure, there is virtually no reason for this sequel to exist. A minimal storytelling effort is made to reunite retired-stripper Mike with his former stripper group. Once they’re together, an equally lazy effort is made to give them a goal: head to a convention for one-last stripping hurrah.
Make no mistake: “XXL” is all about the stripping sequences. These are are full-on, elaborate performances that are undeniably entertaining on a number of levels. It’s not simply the same dance routine repeated ad nauseam – some are heavy on the raunchy innuendo and some are actually pretty intimate. There are individual stripping routines that have more nuance and narrative storytelling depth than the entirety of “XXL.”
In a weird way, “XXL” is an odd sequel. The original “Magic Mike” was a dramatic, character-driven conflict between a veteran dancer with big dreams and a self-destructive up-and-coming rookie dancer. “XXL” essentially threw all that baggage out — it has virtually zero character depth and almost no drama or conflict. It has almost no stakes for the characters and it’s even hard to figure out exactly what this movie is even about. On paper, “XXL” should be one of the laziest and worst sequels of the year — yet, this movie (which is fundamentally a musical in structure) is a lot of damn fun.
But that’s how much undeniably entertaining the dance routines are — they are brazen, over-the-top and ridiculous spectacles. This movie is very aware of its intent — the routines are meant to impress the audience, but smartly avoids going for the cheap titillation factor. There’s a brilliant awareness of how to entertain the audience.
The secret weapon of “XXL” is Jada Pinkett Smith, who is perfectly cast as the sexy, strong and assertive ringmaster of this pack of strippers. She owns the scene every second Pinkett Smith is on screen — which is pretty impressive considering she is literally surrounded by a pack of chiseled strippers.
Any man who isn’t a little impressed by Tatum’s moves or the sheer complexity of some of the routines is simply lying to himself. There’s a joy and sincerity the strippers have while they perform that makes their routines infectiously fun. And even the most audacious and lewd dances are, at their core, about making the women feel special and adored. “XXL” never descends into the darkness of sexual gratuity because the strippers are having fun and they’re performing to make the woman feel beautiful and worshiped.
Final verdict: Ultimately, this is a meandering road trip that’s just a thin facade for this sequel’s real agenda: some pretty entertaining stripping performance sequences. “Magic Mike XXL” is much like its main characters – it’s most entertaining when they shut up and dance. If only this movie were a little more judiciously paced or had just a little more character depth, then “XXL” would receive a much higher review score.
“Magic Mike XXL” opens in theaters nationwide July 1. This movie is rated R for strong sexual content, pervasive language, some nudity and drug use.