Question: how should you as the film industry respond when an unknown, unexpected, unique movie (like Magic Mike) becomes a smash hit?
The answer most of the time, it seems, is simply to rush out a sequel as quickly as possible while it still feels like there’s magic in the air. And while Magic Mike XXL retains enough of its original’s quality to not be a bad movie, it still suffers by comparison, and doesn’t quite hit as many of the same high notes as before.
Losing Matthew McConaughey and Alex Pettyfer, Magic Mike XXL puts a lot of the pressure to perform on Channing Tatum alone. His character, Mike, has retired from stripping and has started up a furniture business. After reconnecting with some of his old stripper buddies, they all agree to head down to Myrtle Beach for one last fantastic strip-a-thon. From there, in many ways, the film hits the same highlights as any good road movie, with the addition of the stripper angle and many sexy dance sequences.
A few scenes hit a decent level of self-awareness, as the characters discuss what stripping actually means, particularly in the world of male-strippers, and the film makes it clear that what many people get out of it is not even particularly nudity. The dance sequences are pretty good, and Tatum is a fantastic dancer for sure, with the rest of his dance team chosen for their abs as much as their moves.
If XXL had come out as its own original movie without Magic Mike existing, it would have been a great addition to the road-trip genre, and it would have shown the Entourage movie how to make a bro-core movie without being cruel or cheap about it. However, the original film stands as the more timeless one, and that cannot be changed. This feels like an extension rather than a move forward, and it desperately cries out for another starring actor like McConaughey from the original to tie it all together. Tatum’s charisma can’t do it on its own.