Back in 2012 Magic Mike was something of a revelation. Steve Soderbergh’s tale about a group of working class lads turned strippers was a much more somber piece than what people expected and it featured two outstanding performances from Matthew McConaughey and Channing Tatum. But surely the world doesn’t really need a sequel? Especially one without the aforementioned McConaughey and Soderbergh?
When the original film come out most people went into it expecting it to be an all out male exploitation show but were surprised and perhaps some were even disappointed when they were given a rather provocative and character driven piece that turned into an examination of the economy. Well fear not, this time around Magic Mike XXL delivers exactly what you’d expect from a film about male strippers- plenty of stripping, plenty of dancing and plenty of bromance.
At first this was a worry of mine, Soderbergh’s film felt like it didn’t need a sequel, that it was should have been a stand alone movie and be done with. But as we know Hollywood dictates that if you can make enough money you normally earn yourselves a cash grab sequel. Magic Mike XXL however manages to do that rare thing- it breaks away from its predecessor and carves a total different identity for itself- an identity that isn’t quite as serious or thought provoking but one that is undeniably fun nonetheless.
Those who’ve seen the trailer will have seen the scene which makes Mike decide that he should return to stripping for one last hurrah. Whilst working on some furniture in the garage a song hits on the radio and Tatum can’t help but moves his hips and get dancing- it’s utter ridiculous, but it’s got its tongue so firmly planted in its cheek that it’s hard not to smile at it. It’s also worth noting that the whole thing was performed by Tatum, with no stunt double or computer generated assistance.
Mike then rejoins his band of merry men from the first movie (minus Mr McConaughey) and sets off to a stripper convention up the coast for his final performance (though if the film does a sizeable return at the box office, which it will, then we will likely the Kings of Tampa again in a few years.) What the film then turns into is a typical road/buddy movie. Mike and the boys go through their differences, encounter some wacky personalities and finally get their act together for the final show down, which whilst being a little indulgent is very well choreographed and manages to maintain the tongue in cheek tone set by the rest of the movie. The exchanges between the gang on the way to the convention are when the movie is at its finest- one scene in particular involving Joe Manganiello in a petrol station is particularly hilarious.
Like last month’s Pitch Perfect 2 this is a sequel that is very much by the numbers, the idea of a gang reuniting for one last show has been done a thousand times before, what propels Magic Mike however is the central performance by Tatum- his star power has risen so much in the last three years that the early days of Step Up and She’s the Man seem like a distant memory. Tatum now has a franchise built completely around him and he excels in the role- it felt like this couldn’t live up to its predecessor because of McConaughey and Soderbergh leaving, but it’s testament to Tatum that he carries the film so well that you barely notice their absence.
Magic Mike was a stripper film that felt almost ashamed of being a stripper film- Magic Mike XXL embraces it and is all the more enjoyable because of it.