Steven Soderbergh’s 2012 Magic Mike was the first filmic foray into the world of male stripping. Marketed as somewhat of a light-hearted comedy, the feature was actually a dark exploration into the seedy underworld of the profession. Though it didn’t offer audiences what they had come to expect, via a strong advertising campaign, the film raked in a good profit at the Box-Office and fans eagerly awaited a sequel.
July 1st saw the opening of Magic Mike XXl, the newest – and final – installment of the franchise, and an offering of what spectators truly wanted with the first film. Light on narrative, introducing new characters and featuring an impressive number of choreographed scenes, this latest look into the eccentric group of performers is an unabashed entertainment ride – a cinematic frolic for adult woman everywhere.
Gregory Jacbobs took over from Soderbergh for this final look into Channing Tatum’s Mike, and the director has delivered an entirely different film. Whether or not this follow-up is of better value to those watching is an individual decision, but Jacobs and Tatum have created a feature film that a) doesn’t take itself too seriously, and b) doesn’t attempt to be anything other then what it is. In terms of the latter, it was clear with Soderbergh’s original that he a) did take the film entirely seriously, and b) wanted to create something of deep meaning in a narrative that doesn’t neccessarily serve this purpose well.
While the indie director managed to successfully target issues of drug abuse and the illegalities attached to such a profession, he didn’t deliver what was promised pre-release. Jacobs does. The director here delivers an 115 minute romp, perhaps too long, but full of genuinely impressive dance routines, and one or two giggles. There are, of course, awkward moments – most of which occur during the middle half courtesy of Andie MacDowell (strange casting choice) – but that’s to be expected in a film that focuses on effeminate men who take their clothes off for money.
The feat here is enabling returning men Tatum, Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Kevin Nash and Adam Rodruiguez to remain masculine while presenting some quirks – such as Ken‘s belief that he can heal people, his love for meditation; Mike‘s obvious fake tan; Tarzan‘s surprising sentimental monologue. These aspects were all present in the first film, but are brought to life with more strength here. The group are allowed room to breathe and we have more time to follow these men, rather then just exploring the lives of Mike and Pettyfer’s Adam, the latter of which does not make a repeat appearance here.
As a spectator you’ll leave the cinema feeling exhilarated after a long jaunt of watching the trip unfold. There’s a side theme brought in by the presence of Jada Pinkett Smith, which puts the idea of these guys doing what they do to make the ladies who watch them feel good about themselves, they enable them to escape their man troubles for a little while. This theme doesn’t achieve a lot in terms of what the 2012 film did, but it’s a nice addition in a screenplay that practically doesn’t present any kind of narrative. Going back to basics, Jacobs’ XXL is simply a road movie, with the boys traveling to Myrtle Beach for one final convention.
Reid Carolin’s script is weak, but the chemistry between the ensemble cast is believable enough and added members of Amber Heard and Donald Glover are welcomed – but underwritten. The soundtrack serves as a back catalog of classic R&B and Hip Hop hits, and the 15 rating is questionable. Putting it simply, its all a bit messy, never sure of how it wants to look – there’s no playing around with colour schemes or lighting, but it serves its purpose.
There’s a scene early on in the film set to a Backstreet Boy’s classic, and the soul purpose of Big Dick Richie‘s dance is to make the shop clerk smile. Like that, the soul purpose of Gregory Jacobs’ Magic Mike XXL is to make the audience smile and that, it does.