Magic Mike turned into one of the more surprising hits in recent times. A film about hunky male strippers initially sounded like a garish excuse to see guys take off their gear. Whilst that was true, underneath the layers hid a meaningful story about male relationships.
The sequel mostly picks up from the original’s sense of purpose. Despite even more clothes being torn off, the smartly written screenplay ensures Magic Mike XXL doesn’t descend into a tawdry flesh-fest.
Having left his life as a stripper behind, Mike (Channing Tatum) feels lost. Missing the companionship of his buddies, he decides to reunite his motley band of strip-pals. Among them are Ken (Matt Bomer) and Tito (Adam Rodriquez). Travelling to a stripper convention, they look forward to winning the main prize. Along the way, loyalties are tested and new bonds are forged as the clothes slowly peel away.
Directed by Gregory Jacobs, Magic Mike XXL is generally engrossing. Whilst emotionally less substantial than its predecessor, it still shows the men dealing with the pitfalls of their chosen profession. When not becoming a group of fantasy-enhancers, the men also become a form of therapy for the women they meet. Fulfilling a sensual connection some lack, the ladies look to the men for adult escapism. How the group handles these attitudes provides an intriguing insight often missing in similar films that only show stripping’s sleazier side.
Emboldened with some depth, Magic Mike XXL also dazzles in the strip-show sequences. Viewers would know what to expect although the way the men perform each set-piece almost makes it an art-form. The physical and psychological bond they form with their audience is fascinating. Tatum and his co-stars earn their money by doing most of these routines. That they inject some heart into their sometimes mechanical moves speaks well of their quest in making Magic Mike XXL more than it could have been.
Although not quite as involving as the first entry, Magic Mike XXL generally delivers the goods. It has enough emotional weight to make it stand out as the characters shed their inhibitions for their eager audience.
Reviewed by Patrick Moore
Rating out of 10: 7