True to its title, “Magic Mike XXL” is indeed bigger than “Magic Mike,” in the sense that it’s five minutes longer. Everything else about it is smaller. It’s not as funny or engaging as its predecessor, it has almost no storyline, no character development, and it features less nudity (not usually a point worth mentioning, but these are movies about strippers). It alternates between pandering to its target audience of straight women, and just boring them.
Most of the creative team has returned for the sequel, set three years after the sinewy Floridians bumped and grinded their way to stripper glory. Steven Soderbergh turned directorial duties over to Gregory Jacobs, his longtime first assistant director, but Soderbergh produced, edited, and photographed the film, with Reid Carolin returning as screenwriter. Matthew McConaughey and Alex Pettyfer are gone, but be honest, you’ll only miss one of them.
The rest of the gang — Richie (Joe Manganiello), Ken (Matt Bomer), Tito (Adam Rodriguez), Tarzan (Kevin Nash), and DJ Tobias (Gabriel Iglesias) — are heading up to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for the annual convention of male strippers, and they recruit Mike (Channing Tatum) to join them for one more ride. (Note that this is merely a convention, not a competition, lest the story have any stakes, lest there be some suspense over the outcome). The guys road trip up from Florida, stopping a few places along the way to have rambling interludes with locals. These diversions are not, strictly speaking, “tangents,” because there is no central story for them to be tangents to.
Two vignettes are noteworthy. In one, the gang meets Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith), the emcee at a Georgia house that appears to be part brothel, part all-male revue. (She and Mike have a history.) In the other, the gang crashes a party of wine-drinking cougars (one of them played by Andie MacDowell) at a charming old South Carolina mansion. Most of the clientele at Rome’s place are black, and everybody at the mansion is white, but the message imparted to both groups of women is the same: you are all beautiful queens who deserve to feel special. I have no argument with that sentiment, but the movie slathers it on with embarrassing effusiveness, cooing to the ladies in the audience as it pats them condescendingly on the head and reassures them that they, too, are beautiful queens.
The rest of the movie is for bros, about bros, a sort of non-idiot’s version of “Entourage.” Tatum and the others are agile dancers, to be sure, and a few scenes have a tongue-in-cheek sexiness to them. But the conversation is rarely interesting; I don’t find any of the characters compelling; none of them change, learn, or grow over the course of the movie; and in the absence of a conflict (or at least some mindless titillation), what’s the point? Unlike its stars, the movie is shambling, flabby, and way too long.
C (1 hr., 55 min.; )