Two out of five stars
You may remember from 2012’s "Magic Mike" that Channing Tatum’s Mike was leaving the stripping business to build his own custom furniture business. Let’s just say neither the business or his relationship went as planned. So when his old buddies -- Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello), Tarzan (Kevin Nash), Ken (Matt Bomer) and Tito (Adam Rodriguez) -- decide to take a road trip for one last hurrah at the annual stripper convention in Myrtle Beach, Mike can’t resist the temptation to turn back the clock and dry-hump strangers all the way up the Florida and South Carolina coasts.
On the way to the convention, Mike meets Amber Heard’s Zoe, an aspiring photographer who also happens to be a stripper. Zoe doesn’t really serve as Mike’s love interest, but more of somebody he’s interested in getting to know a little better. On a stage, in front of several hundred strangers.
There’s very little dramatic tension in "Magic Mike XXL." The outcome is never in doubt. Really, the only question needing an answer in this movie is whether they can find an emcee to replace Dallas, played by Mathew McConaughey in the first film. That’s where strip club owner Jada Pinkett Smith’s Rome comes in, who’s kind of like the Willie Wonka of the male stripping business -- she’s the candyman.
Truthfully, "Magic Mike XXL" is a story that could’ve been told in 20 minutes. On the flip side, even if male strippers aren’t your thing, it’s impossible not to be impressed by Tatum’s dancing ability and Manganiello’s comedic timing. I just wish Manganiello’s two funniest scenes didn’t feel like they were three hours apart. This film’s pacing is atrocious.
The movie’s best attribute is it looks great, and that has everything to do with "Magic Mike" director Steven Soderbergh’s decision to act as the director of photography this time, while Gregory Jacobs, his longtime first unit assistant director, takes the reins. Few people know how to utilize depth of field better than Soderbergh, but here it’s almost as if he’s attempting to make the movie look beautiful to make up for an incredibly boring and predictable story.
When Channing Tatum and friends aren’t thrusting their hips in someone’s face -- and that’s putting it mildly -- Jacobs and writer Reid Carolin attempt to craft a buddy road trip movie with the heart and humor of the first "Magic Mike." While some of the humor remains, the heart is gone -- and that heart was Matthew McConaughey.
I’m sure some will find "Magic Mike XXL" arousing, but not anyone whose idea of a turn-on is a good movie.