The naked boys are back in this sequel to the erratically uneven, mildly entertaining male stripper… er… “male entertainer” would-be fleshfest that was the hit 2012 film Magic Mike. Last we saw him, Mike (Channing Tatum) was on his way to becoming an independent businessman: building furniture, quitting stripping, and walking off into the Florida sunset with his lady friend. Well, three years later, he seems to be doing just fine, except that lady friend from the last film wasn’t invited back (buh-bye, irrelevant actress!), and thought it is fun seeing Mike do a sweaty routine with power tools, we really want to see him strip with his buddies. When his old pals blow back into town for one… last… stripping convention (!)… naturally Mike drops his business and commitments and piles into a yogurt van with them.
As with any road movie, the plot is loosey-goosey. The scenery and folks change around them as they drive to Myrtle Beach, with the important consistency that they walk around shirtless for at least 80% of their waking (and sleeping) hours. No one is getting hurt by this, folks, so that is fine, just fine. XXL took a hint from the criticisms of the first film and dropped the dour, druggie, downward spiral plot (and, in turn, dumped a few of those characters), and this time around made a bit of a lighter romp. There is still the requisite pseudo love interest, with another scrappy dishwater-blonde chick (the surprisingly dull and uncharismatic Amber Heard, who mopes around most of the movie), and, instead of drugs, the crisis is more of the mid-life type: what to do AFTER stripping? After all, being a male entertainer does not include a 401K plan.
Then there is the dancing. I don’t think I was the only one that thought Magic Mike didn’t have enough dancing (aka stripping) scenes. This time, the filmmakers listened. The boys stop in Savannah, conveniently visiting a male strip club specifically for the ladies, run by a sexy mistress (Jada Pinkett Smith) that refers to all of her patrons as “queens” (as her men dote and grind on them). Taking a cue from other gratuitous dance films (that I kind of love), like the Step Up series, this visit turns into an excuse for an extended sequence of dancing, grinding, and glistening man flesh, for no plot-advancing reason other than that is what the audience is patiently waiting for.
The problem is, for each invigorating Savannah sequence, there are others that kind of lurch along. We don’t really want to hear the men waxing poetically about how their job is to respect and service women for the beautiful goddesses they are. Everything that we want out of Magic Mike is summarized in a single, glorious scene: On a drug-fuelled dare, Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello) dances his best seductive dance in a mini-mart, trying to coax a smile out of the grim woman at the counter. In the few moments like these, Magic Mike XXL is solid gold.
Extras on the Blu-ray release include the featurette “The Moves of Magic Mike XXL” with behind-the-scenes footage of the dance rehersals with choreographers Alison Faulk and Teresa Espinosa, including interviews with the cast members. You can also see an extended sequence of Malik’s Rome dance scene, plus there is a bit that espouses the glories of working in the state of Georgia (Georgia isn’t just for zombies anymore!).