Not Meaty Enough: A Magic Mike XXL Review

As an avid movie goer, I understand that beyond my own personal taste of film lies a vast palette of films left to be visually devoured. Films I wouldn’t regularly see or have an interest in. This is one of those cases.

This time Hollywood has returned to a type of film that rarely is seen in the cinemas these days. That’s not saying that just because the film’s genre is unique it’s also good. The much anticipated sequel to Steven Soderbergh’s 2012 Magic Mike, a comedic drama that had as much heart and soul as it did attractive, well-known males stripping on stage, was quite a sight to see. Not because of the scantily clad hunks parading themselves in banana hammocks for a slew of giddy, cheering women, both in the film and in the theaters, but because this genre of film is so rare to see, let alone review these days.

Whereas most films are produced with teenagers to early thirty year old’s in mind, e.g. The Avengers, Jurassic World, and Inside Out, it’s even rarer for Hollywood to green light a film that almost exclusively has an all-female audience as it’s key demographic. You’d think that the risk was high, until you hear that the original Magic Mike film had only a meager budget of $7 million. The response to the film surpassed expectations with it grossing a total of $113 million. It was clear that Hollywood had overlooked this type of film if it could yield such high payouts from female and male audience members. So, it’s no wonder that they doubled the budget for Magic Mike XXL to hopefully double the gross.

I was surprised to see that I wasn’t the only male in the theaters to be honest. For every five women I saw, there was one man among them. It seemed that Box Office Mojo’s statement that “a whopping 96-percent of the audience for XXL was female” during most of the films showings was somewhat accurate.  Of course I didn’t really expect the theater to be packed full of men either. This kind of film is honey to women and vinegar to men much like action films such as Wanted, Taken, and Die Hard are basically mouth-watering visual bait for the Y chromosome holders.

I knew within the first few minutes of Magic Mike XXL that it was going to be the same genre of comedy and drama as it’s predecessor just from the first three character names of the film, those being Mike, Dallas, and Tarzan. I was just waiting for the names Hephaestus and Titan to pop up later in the film. But I digress. The film pretty much takes off where we last left Mike (Channing Tatum) in Tampa, Florida as a struggling owner of his carpentry business. It’s apparent with long gazes on the beach into the sunset and contrived, yet contorted looks of confusion throughout his day to day life that something has Mike not feeling so magical. He gets a call from his old male stripper, or should I say, male entertainer, buddy Tarzan (WWF, WWE & WCW star Kevin Nash) that their old choreographer, colleague, and coach, Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), has passed away, and he has been invited to the wake.

It turns out Mike is tricked into attending a pool party where he is reunited with his friends “Big Dick” Ritchie (Joe Manganiello, and yes, you read that right), Ken (USA’s White Collar star, Matt Bomer), and Tito (Adam Rodriguez), as well as the Kings of Tampa’s new emcee, Tobias (comedian Gabriel Iglesias). Here they explain to Mike that Dallas isn’t actually dead but did desert them, and that the Kings of Tampa are planning on going to Myrtle Beach to the annual strip conference for one last show. Sorry, ONE. LAST. SHOW. th3K4NWVE8Of course, Mike reluctantly declines at first, but only until he finds an old sticky note from his ex-lover on a tub of ice cream, which by the way hilariously says, “Let’s get fat together.”  After a grinding session by himself to Ginuwine’s, Pony in his workshop, he finally agrees to join the Kings of Tampa on their way to South Carolina for their final show.

To be honest, I was expecting some full frontal nudity in this film. I mean, hell, if you label something “XXL” I would assume that you may be entitled to see a glimpse at such a rare and prized male possession. I know I wasn’t the only person thinking that in the theater, but I may have been one of the only ones hoping that wasn’t going to be the case.th36IETVVA

Of course what follows is an occasionally comedic road trip from Tampa to Myrtle Beach with the five hunks, during which Mike attempts to deal with the emotional distress and resentment that his former stripping pals have harbored against him since he decided to become a regular guy with a girlfriend and a business of his own. Each of the characters in this film has an issue with themselves, which reaffirms the idea that just because someone is good looking it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re happy, a point that  is driven home in this XXL sequel.  However, when all of his friends seem unsure of themselves, their dreams, and their desires, that’s when we see Mike’s compassionate and considerate side, the same side that earned him the girl, the job, and the life he strives for in the first film, come out.

Yet, these scenes are not mutually exclusive to other hard bodied bro’s like Andre (Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino).  The tenderness of facing these fears is apparent when Mike reaches out to the female characters as well like Rome (Jada Pinkett-Smith), Mike’s ex-lover and old boss, and Zoe (Amber Heard), Mike’s current love interest who is dead set on going to New York City to become a photographer. Mike is portrayed as a wonderful, yet insightful character that attempts and succeeds in properly motivating his friends into facing and overcoming their own fears.  Unfortunately these genuine scenes are too sparse, just like the Kings of Tampa’s clothing, in a film that has trouble finding it’s balance on the center stage.

The film becomes a hodge-podge of comedic gaffs, laughs, and hilarious, provocative choreography, bogged down with consistently phoned-in melodrama, due to the poorly executed cinematography. In one scene, after Mike proves that he is willing to be as much a part of the team as any other member, we find Mike and the beautiful, yet cautious Zoe on a beach at night engulfed in darkness to the point where the audience literally cannot see more than half of their faces. This is by no means a short scene either because here we learn about the determined, yet fragile nature of Zoe and in a way about Mike too.  Due to the lack of intimacy (and lighting!) between the camera and the characters, you’ll find yourself squinting throughout the scene as opposed to listening to it.

Another scene which is poorly shot, sadly, is the ending.  I won’t spoil it for you, but in the finale, regardless of knowing the outcome of the Kings of Tampa’s final show, we get a montage of the backs of actor’s and actresses’ heads as they embrace one another. I’d like to tell you that they seem happy, but not every shot suggests that, due to the lack of facial expressions or faces themselves. thPPMHBF8CLacking depth in cinematography is a sure way to disjoin the audience from the characters. In a film where we are getting incredibly intimate with these character’s insecurities, fears, bodies, members, and sexual history, the cinematography does not complement this most of the time. It’s almost as if the camera is afraid to get too close and reveal them for who they really are.

Magic Mike XXL, directed by Gregory Jacobs, is a mediocre attempt at replicating the genuine sincerity of the first film.  It falls flat trying to repeat the same moves of the first one, despite the laughs being abundant and plentiful. The chemistry that Channing Tatum possesses with his other on-screen cast members produces great comical moments throughout the film, but the comedy is overshadowed by the less than stellar drama. The film is relatively funny with many one-liners, scenes, and jokes you’ll find yourself telling your friends about. Because the film is aimed at women, one thing still remains true about the characters: they are men, and they do what men do which can yield both good and bad results.

R Fortune’s Rating: 5.5/10
{Go now?} OR {Wait for Blu-Ray?} Wait.

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