The original Magic Mike – as a theatrical experience – was a unique one for me. It opened my eyes to how oblivious the reactionary populace is to what lies beneath face value as my peers chided me for eagerly anticipating it. Time after time, my professed admiration of Soderbergh’s swan song end cap (sans-Behind the Candelabra) has garnered more eye rolls than empathy, even despite the film’s merits as a surprisingly multifaceted deconstruction of the male stripper lifestyle. For what it’s worth, Magic Mike XXL is just as enjoyable but in a different vein, an adherence to the broader tale it chooses to tell working to its utmost advantage.
Nearly three years removed from the biz, Mike Lane (Channing Tatum) leads a newly conventional lifestyle as a furniture designer. When unexpectedly prompted to reunite with his former coworkers, Mike’s coaxed into being the missing link in getting the band back together for one last gig at a notorious convention in Myrtle Beach. Well-oiled hilarity ensues as these aging men embark on their odyssey via mobile frozen yogurt stand complete with abundant debauchery.
For all intents and purposes, Magic Mike was a resplendently glorified depiction of its titular protagonist at the height of an identity crisis. Naively tentpoled into his profession and retroactively aware of the American Dream that’s eluded him because of it, XXL‘s predecessor had a penchant for grimly waxing poetic about its heavy-handed central theme. While I found this aspect of the film to be most laudable amid Soderbergh’s trademark touch (present again throughout this film), the thorough exploration of the subculture coinciding with the profession in question proved to be more than just one-dimensional clothes shedding.
XXL chooses to instead shed something else entirely, and that is a proclivity for mirthless heft that would procure a familiar end result. Instead, gone are the harsh, almost unforgiving aspects in favor of what’s ostensibly buddy road trip comedy peppered with gleeful absurdity. Take a scene involving a nearly seven-foot-tall male rolling on Ecstasy for example, self-basted with Cheeto dust and water in an attempt to merely make a convenience store clerk smile. Set to the tune of the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” no less. This happens prior to the film’s best stretch, and let it be known that I was still hooked.
Without revealing too much of what makes this sequel tick in the realm of straitlaced entertainment, Magic Mike XXL epitomizes self-assurance in modern filmmaking. It revels in exploring a world introduced throughout the original to a decidedly different degree, people’s comparisons to a male stripper equivalent of an Ocean‘s film ringing more agreeable than ever once the stellar third act unfurls. Barring the obvious and initial appeal of recurring male nudity, Magic Mike XXL is a rare example of an unnecessary sequel that effortlessly surpasses low expectations on the basis of how fast and loose it completes its singular and subversive albeit simplistic overarching objective.