Monday, December 5, 2016

Movie #382: Magic Mike XXL

Magic Mike XXL is, of course, the sequel to Magic Mike. It stars Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, Adam Rodriguez, Gabriel Iglesias, Jada Pinkett Smith, Amber Heard, Donald Glover, and Kevin Nash. It's directed by Gregory Jacobs, but Sodebergh stayed on to do cinematography.

Three years after the first movie, Mike Lane (Tatum) is making furniture, but doesn't have a storefront and is barely making ends meet. He gets a called from Tarzan (Nash), one of his old stripping buddies, and learns that his former boss Dallas took "the Kid" and fucked off to Macau to start an act there, ditching the others. Said others have all moved on to various degrees; Ken (Bomer) is trying to have a go at an acting career, Tito (Rodriguez) and Tobias (Iglesias) have a fro-yo truck. Richie (Manganiello) and Tarzan are at a bit of a loss, but the guys decide to drive up to Myrtle Beach for a stripper's convention, as a send-off to their stint as the Kings of Tampa.

The movie from there is a road trip movie; the guys bond, fight, take drugs, and revamp their act. They wind up needing a new emcee and Mike visits Rome (Pinkett Smith), living like an empress in a Savannah mansion that caters to women who want to watch beautiful men strip and perform, eventually convincing her to help them. They ditch their old routines and perform new ones, reflecting who they really are and what they love.

This movie wasn't terribly well-reviewed, but I dunno, I like it. It's a good sequel, and those are rare - mostly sequels just rehash the original (or, nowadays, movies are built to be franchises so the story is designed as one long piece, which is a different thing), but in this one, the characters and world are the same, but the narrative refocuses. Nothing gets retconned, and it makes perfect sense that Dallas and Adam aren't there (IRL, they couldn't afford McConaughey and apparently Pettyfer didn't get along with Tatum, but whatever serendipity). The end of the movie isn't a joyful "let's get back to Tampa, guys!" but the acknowledgement that yeah, this was great, this was fun, we went out on a high note. It's a happy ending without being a Shakespearean happy ending (bad become good, good become saintly, everyone gets married), and it has a pretty contemplative feel for a movie about strippers.

Once again, the performances make the movie, but what's interesting to me is how much Manganiello carries it, considering he has like three lines in the first movie. Tatum is there to be the framing device and he gets the lion's share of the story (though I kinda feel like his budding romance with Amber Heard's character is much less interesting than Manganiello's with Andie MacDowell's), but the other guys and their stories are brought into focus and woven into the movie pretty deftly.

My grade: A-
Rewatch value: Medium-low

Next up: The Magnificent Seven