Back in 2012, Channing Tatum showed us his true acting chops with two highly successful and highly acclaimed films. The first was 21 Jump Street, and the second was Steven Soderbergh's stripper-fest Magic Mike, based partly on Tatum's own experiences as a male stripper. Despite its subject matter, Magic Mike proved to be a very good film that anyone of any gender or sexual orientation could enjoy. Now 3 years later we have ourselves a highly anticipated sequel which I was fortunate enough to see at an advance screening. And while the sequel, entitled Magic Mike XXL isn't quite as magical (bad pun, I'm sorry) as the first film, it is still a very entertaining and enjoyable summer flick.
XXL takes place 3 years after the first film, and we follow "Magic" Mike Lane (Channing Tatum) as he has successfully launched his own furniture business and has given up life as a male stripper. Things change, though, when he reunites with his original crew - consisting of Richie (Joe Manganiello), Ken (Matt Bomer), Tarzan (Kevin Nash), Tito (Adam Rodriguez), and Tobias (Gabriel Iglesias) - as they make their way up to a strippers convention in Myrtle Beach in an effort to put on one last big show before putting this life to rest.
Channing Tatum continues to prove just how much he's grown as an actor, and just how good he is at comedy. He adds a great amount of energy to the title character while also making him supremely likable and, at times, even kinda relatable. You can tell that Tatum really cares about the material he's working with, and he does everything in his power to make his performance as engaging and entertaining as he can, and boy does he do it.
It also helps that he has wonderful chemistry with his crew-members, who also give very energetic and fun performances as well. In particular, I found Joe Manganiello extremely fun to watch and he's got several standout moments throughout, namely one taking place in a liquor store. Yeah, that was fun.
The supporting cast also boasts many terrific new additions, including the likes of Donald Glover (come back to Community PLEEEASE!), Amber Heard, Elizabeth Banks (bae), Andie MacDowell, and Jada Pinkett Smith, and while some of them have somewhat minor roles, they still make for some very entertaining roles and moments throughout the film. Jada Pinkett Smith in particular turns in a fantastic performance as an old flame of Mike's, who eventually fills the void left here by Matthew McConaughey's Dallas from the first film.
As for the movie itself: even though I still think the first film is a better movie overall, the one thing I think XXL handles better than the first is the tone. One of the few problems I found with the original Magic Mike was that I found the tone to be a little inconsistent, going from raunchy comedy to touchy drama, and it made certain parts feel a little unfocused. XXL doesn't really aim for all that much drama, and for the most part plays out more like a straightforward comedy, and I personally think that's a good thing. This is a film that knows what it wants to be and doesn't try to be anything more or less than that.
This is more of a comedy than the first film, and believe me, the film is very, very funny. I found myself laughing and laughing HARD throughout a good majority of this film. We see these characters getting in several hilarious situations throughout the movie - funny enough, most of the best moments involved Joe Manganiello - and these moments are made even more enjoyable due to the incredible chemistry between each of the lead characters.
And that right there is what this movie does best. The chemistry between these characters I think is some of the best chemistry between any characters in any film this year so far. We really do get the sense that these guys are great friends, and have been so forever. As a result, any scenes with them doing their thing or just simply talking or hanging out are even more entertaining that they already would've been, and the film overall becomes more entertaining because of it.
Unfortunately, though, this movie does have some problems that prevent it from being as good as it could have been, or as good as its predecessor. The biggest weakness with Magic Mike XXL - and I HARDLY ever say this about movies - is that for the most part, there really isn't much of a plot here. There is a basic starting premise that the movie goes off of, but for most of the movie, it really is just a bunch of guys doing crazy shit for 2 hours, and while it is entertaining, there really isn't a whole lot of structure to be found here.
The only other major problem I found with the film is that I feel the pacing definitely could've been improved. While I never found myself bored at any point in the movie, I did feel that there were a few scenes that went on for a bit too long, and ultimately I think they probably could've shaved off about 15 minutes in the editing room to make it flow more evenly. One of these scenes that really stood out to me was with the introduction of Jada Pinkett Smith's character as she's throwing a lavish party with male strippers and hot black chicks. It's a fun scene, but I think it could've been trimmed a little.
Despite those complaints, however, Magic Mike XXL is a pretty fun sequel. Fans of the first film will definitely get a kick out of this one - as evidenced by my screening, which was filled with screaming girls clapping and cheering throughout - and even though I do feel it is a step backwards from the first movie, I still had a good time with it and I'd definitely recommend it. Check this one out when it hits theaters this Wednesday.