Magic Mike XXL once again serves up a vivid reminder that I am not, in fact, Channing Tatum.
Now then, this is not exactly a surprise.
I am, after all, a fairly realistic human being. On my best days, which are few and far between, I'm much closer to homeless chic than Channing physique.
I have never, not even once in my life, been referred to as "sexy," " hot," or "throbbing."
I don't gyrate. I don't pulsate. I really don't do any "ate." Okay, well, maybe THAT one.
Channing Tatum is nearly every woman's fantasy. I'm a sympathy fuck after a few drinks and compromised standards.
Hell, even I'll admit that I enjoyed Tatum's Magic Mike, a not so surprise hit fairly loosely based upon Tatum's own experiences as an 18-year-old stripper in Tampa, Florida. While the film ran every risk of being a campfest along the lines of Elizabeth Berkley's Showgirls, it ended up being one of director Steven Soderbergh's better box-office hits and a film that had just the right story, hit all the right notes and, well, it had Channing Tatum as Magic Mike.
Tatum is back as Magic Mike in this sequel that is co-penned by Tatum but not so much inspired by Tatum's experiences as much as it's inspired by the mega-cash the first film attracted by being about those experiences. Directed not by Soderbergh but by frequent Soderbergh assistant director Gregory Jacobs, not to be confused with the Gregory Jacobs also known as Humpty Hump, Magic Mike XXL is essentially a "one more time" film, a film that gives the guys one last hurrah, unless box-office receipts dictate otherwise, and does so with all the swagger of the original film but an awful lot less of the heart n' soul.
The story picks up three years after Mike (Tatum) bowed out of the stripper life at the top of his game to chase that dream of making furniture so tacky looking that I wouldn't have it in my Eastside Indianapolis home.
But, I digress. He's happy. That's what counts, right?
The remaining Kings of Tampa are ready to "hang" it up, as well, but they want to go out in style with one last big blast. Magic Mike XXL is about that last blast, a fired up gig in Myrtle Beach with old buddy Magic Mike leading the way.
Of course. I mean, really, it would be weird to have a Channing Tatum film without Channing Tatum.
So, the Kings of Tampa head off to Myrtle Beach for a stripper convention with stops in Jacksonville and Savannah. Along the way, they pick up some new moves and drop off some old baggage.
If you're really expecting more from Magic Mike XXL than gyrating and pulsating, then you're really going to be disappointed.
It's hard to begrudge a film that knows exactly what it's supposed to be and commits to that modest vision with as much brightness, enthusiasm, pleasantness and camaraderie as does Magic Mike XXL. Even if you consider it to be a dumbed down version of a not particularly intelligent original film, Magic Mike XXL is for the most part such a well-meaning bro-fest that focuses less on wary moralizing and more on the easy banter and easier on the eyes pecs, flexing, and sexy Kings of Tampa.
All of the guys are back with the notable and lamentable absence of now Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey. Joe Manganiello and Matthew Bomer get extra time to shine, while Kevin Nash and Adam Rodriguez keep doing their thing. Mike takes time to reconnect with a bisexual stripper (Amber Heard) and an old flame who now runs her own strip joint (Jada Pinkett Smith).
While Soderbergh isn't directing, he does still show up as cinematographer and producer for the film and, let's be honest, how badly could Gregory Jacobs really screw this up?
I mean, seriously. It's Channing Tatum. Not fully clothed. It's Channing Tatum's penis. Seriously. How can you screw this up?
Or, as they say in Pixar's Inside Out "What could go wrong?"
Magic Mike XXL lacks the newness and emotional core that allowed Magic Mike a somewhat surprising critical and box-office success. It was, in fact, a much better film than a good majority of us expected it to be. Tatum doesn't quite benefit from that lack of expectation this time around but, luckily for Tatum, he still has his penis, he can still dance and whether we want to admit it or not sometimes that's more than enough.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic