Back in 2012, Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike completely took me by surprise. The trailers had been laughable and the premise ridiculous, but I am a heterosexual woman after all, so of course I saw it. Aside from the (occasionally) gratuitous six-pack shots, the film was surprisingly well written, well directed, and hilarious. Magic Mike XXL is everything I feared its predecessor would be: cheap laughs, unnecessary male nudity, and shallow storylines. All of this, however, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I don’t know that many people will enter the theatre expecting highbrow cinema, or even “good” cinema. It’s mainstream fun, and will absolutely thrill anyone who actually wants to go to the theatre to see this movie.
The film takes place in real time, three years after Mike (Channing Tatum) has left the stripping business to pursue his furniture building aspirations. The remaining members of his stripping group rally together, and convince him to perform one last time at the annual stripper convention (stick with me, if you can). The old favorites are there, like Joe “Big Dick Richie” Manganiello, and Kevin Nash as Tarzan. The writing is a bit sloppy in how it “covers” for the characters no longer in it (most notably Dallas, played by Matthew McConaughey) with convenient excuses like performing overseas with a different group. Once the exposition is out of the way, the guys go on a road trip (which is pretty much a failsafe narrative technique) to the convention, with antics along the way that usually end in one or all taking their clothes off.
That’s really all there is to say about the plot. There isn’t much of a normal story arc, just lots of stripping scenarios. Isn’t that what the people want? Donald Glover makes a surprising appearance as Andre, a stripper who (surprise, surprise) raps. Am I bummed that he ditched Troy and Abed to be a rapper and ended up stripping in Magic Mike? Not really. Kind of a dream scenario, honestly. Amber Heard also joins the cast as a somewhat annoying, but obviously gorgeous love interest for Mike. But it’s Matt Bomer who really shines in XXL. His role as Ken in the previous film was very small, but fear not—his character is pretty central in this one.
If you have any interest in this film, chances are you’ll like it. If you’re expecting anything other than a movie where a bunch of ripped, attractive dudes get undressed, chances are you’ll hate it. I was lucky enough to attend this screening in a theatre filled to the brim with a crowd of screaming, cheering, applauding (mostly) women—I recommend seeing this in theatres if you see it at all for the full experience.
Magic Mike XXL opens today in Philly area theaters.
Author: Catherine Haas
Catherine Haas is a native Philadelphian who received her master’s in film history from Columbia University. She is a freelance film programmer, writer, and an avid pug enthusiast.