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'Magic Mike XXL' Is Fluff and Abs and Butts and a Whole Lot Better Than It Should Be

By Vivian Kane | Film | July 2, 2015 |

By Vivian Kane | Film | July 2, 2015 |

When you think back to the first Magic Mike movie, what do you remember? Unless you were a super fan and have done numerous rewatches, I’m going to assume you’re like me and remember a movie about a bunch of guys grinding on things while simultaneously having feelings and romance and stuff. Probably… I think? Honestly, I know I was surprised by the Soderberghness of the first movie, and thought it was so much better than anyone expected, but when you think back on the movie, this is what you remember, right?

So the sequel knew what it needed to be. It was this:

But, like, XXL. It ditched the plot, upped the GIFable grinding, and stretched it all out to a ridiculously unnecessary 115 run time. And yet for that terrible (and accurate) description, the movie is better than you expect. Whatever you think this movie will be, that’s what it is— but a better version. The pitch meeting for this movie is easy to imagine. It’s a plot we’re overly familiar with. Think Bring It On, or Pitch Perfect, or Pitch Perfect 2, or Glee, or fucking anything that involves a bunch of beautiful underdog performers fighting their way to their version of “regionals.”

After a brief backstory, basically meant to let us know that the stability Channing Tatum’s Magical Mike earned at the end of the first movie has only left him unfulfilled, he’s reunited with his old stripper Male Entertainer buddies. Their leader Dallas (Matthew McConaughey) wanted too much money left for some reason, and now the guys are on their way from Miami to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for a stripper convention. (By the way, if you’re looking for any indication of how fully these script details were fleshed out, know that when the guys show up at this heretofore unnamed convention, the marquee reads simply: “Stripper Convention.” I feel like that is a full review in itself.)

As the guys head out in their artisanal frozen yogurt food truck (really), the plot alternates between bumping and grinding, comedic interludes usually involving alcohol and/or controlled substances, and awkward, seemingly improvised emotional development from actors who have little chemistry and no business improvising. It’s a fun road trip movie that has less in the way of through line than it does fully enjoyable vignettes. They get fucked up on a beach. They dance in a drag show. They seduce a bunch of drunken lonely middle aged upper crust southern WASPs— side note, Andie MacDowell needs to play this role in EVERYTHING. They pick up a freestyling behatted Donald Glover for no reason other than Donald Glover should definitely be in this movie in some capacity. They pick up a Jada Pinkett Smith, whose super sexy ultra-ham skills are finally used in the way they should have been in Gotham but very much weren’t. These are scenes that don’t so much drag as they do… exist. They are there. They are fun. They are not much else. And really, they don’t need to be.

If that doesn’t sound profoundly rave-worthy, it should be said that this movie has one extraordinary thing going for it. And that is that it takes itself exactly zero percent seriously. The characters (and actors playing them) are earnest, but fluffy. Everyone in it seems to be having the best time, and isn’t out to prove anything other than that they have the ability to have fun and do awesome things with their butts. So it can have scene after rambling scene wherein every single character eventually has a major emotional revelation, and still brush everything off with a grin and a twerk. It can shoehorn in a completely underdeveloped love story (inconsequential enough to guarantee Amber Heard continues to not be a thing), but make the payoff worth it in the form of one glorious full-contact Cirque du Soleil-level stripshow grind fest. It can even make it unavoidably clear that all but one female character (thank you, Jada) is there to have her broken self-esteem healed through the power of having dudes’ junk rubbed on her, and still come off as an almost feminist manifesto, simply because the characters don’t seem self aware enough to be taken seriously, even by themselves.

The frustrating thing about the movie is that it’s not terrible. It could be so much worse, but we also catch frequent enough glimpses of what it could be, that it’s hard not to wish everyone involved had just taken a little more time to flesh this whole thing out. As is, as long as you’re not expecting anything more than a weird and good time, you’ll end up fulfilled. This movie has more than enough for that. It has a group of guys who want to show you their abs and butts. It’s a bromantic comedy uniquely free of the usual tired and expected gay jokes. It has one of the most diverse casts of the year. Channing Tatum is gorgeous and charming and does for woodworking what Flashdance did for welders. And pretty much the entire last third is an extended concert film that’ll melt your pants clean off your body. So yes, keep your expectations low (though maybe not as low as you would have thought), and bring extra pants. And enjoy the butts.

Vivian Kane is eagerly awaiting your Tina Belcher GIFs in the comments.