After the pop culture explosion that Steven Soderbergh brought to screens with 2012’s “Magic Mike,” director Gregory Jacobs does a bang up job of carrying the torch. “Magic Mike XXL” is a mixed bag that sags in the middle but is overall a very entertaining road film. After three years retired from the erotic dance business, Mike receives word that former boss “Dallas” is dead. Shocked to learn that he is very alive and abandoned his former group of dancers, Mike is inspired to rejoin his old team after a serendipitous airing of the song “Pony” reminds him of his old days.
Most of the gang are back this time around and decides to have one last hurrah at an up and coming stripper convention. Along the way the guys begin to face that the demand for the older stripes is fading and that they may not have accomplished everything they set out to, over the years. Mike is especially faced with no longer being offered gigs as a dancer, despite loving the art of erotic performing. Tatum’s performance is very grounded and charming, as he conveys a side of his character that’s coming up to an age where he’s obsolete as a stripper, and relies on the road trip cross country to give him one last thriller.
“Magic Mike XXL” is a surprisingly entertaining and funny follow up that centers on each stripper and explores how they have dealt with their lives and how they plan to live out the duration of it, building their dreams up from almost nothing. Every character gets to have their moment where they’re able to convey the universal collective fear of being incapable of making it in the future without dancing as their crutch. In particular there’s the member of the group anxious to start a food truck business and is unsure how he’ll fare. The collective performances are very good, with Bomer and Mangeniello stealing a lot of the scenes away and being granted the most interesting moments in the film.
Bomer serenading a frustrated house wife with “Heaven” is sweet in its way, while Mangeniello attempting to entice a convenience store worker to a Backstreet Boys song is hilarious. “Magic Mike XXL” sags right down the middle once Jada Pinkett’s character is introduced. Not only is her dynamic with Tatum dull, but I never understood why the film places so much importance on her presence. Once the film sidesteps Pinkett, though, “Magic Mike XXL” gets back on track as an engaging and charming drama comedy that mixes dancing, erotica, and rich characterization quite well.
Featured on the Warner release is the eight minute “The Moves of ‘Magic Mike XXL’” which explores the ace choreography by Alison Faulk and Teresa Espinosa who worked one on one with the entire cast to perfect their routines. There is rehearsal footage, visits to the set, and interviews with the cast and crew. There’s a three minute Extended version of Malik’s Dance Scene from Rome’s Palace, showing off a little more moves. Finally, there’s the two minute “Georgia” which explores how the cast and crew worked and returned to the state, how they worked from the state through most of the film, and there’s even a rare appearance by Steven Soderbergh.