MAGIC MIKE XXL
DIRECTED BY Gregory Jacobs
STARS Channing Tatum, Amber Heard
Stephen "Twitch" Boss, Amber Heard (second from right) and Channing Tatum in Magic Mike XXL (Photo: Warner Bros.)
The most shocking surprise of the summer season, Magic Mike XXL is that rare sequel that improves on the original. Many will disagree, given that the 2012 Magic Mike was a critical darling (largely due to the presence of the revered Steven Soderbergh as director) and commercial hit (largely — solely? — due to the presence of all those rippling bods). Yet that first flick frequently left me shrugging, with a plot that was often more soapy than gritty. The solution in this second installment? Remove the plot completely!
Or so it feels, as this outing offers little more than a road trip taken by Mike (Channing Tatum) and his fellow male strippers to a Myrtle Beach competition, with a couple of stops along the way. One is at an establishment run by Mike's former boss and former squeeze, Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith); the other is the home of a friend of Mike's latest potential girlfriend, Zoe (Amber Heard), a Charleston estate where the guys entertain a MILF (Andie MacDowell) and her equally appreciative guests.
Magic Mike XXL is a breezy, all-inclusive treat. It's sexy, it's stylish, it's well-paced (and the dance routines exceptionally well-choreographed), and it's unexpectedly pro-women, treating the female characters as respectfully as the male strippers do and reminding moviegoers that carnal pleasures aren't reserved only for the hot young thangs among us (props also to Mike's view of God). MMXXL is an MRA nightmare, but its good-time vibes will hopefully translate into dreamy B.O. returns.