Channing Tatum’s deja vu in “Magic Mike XXL” has less to do with the film it’s a sequel to,”Magic Mike,” than with the film that launched his career. “Magic Mike II” is basically “Step Up: The Stripping Years.”
It’s still set in the sordid world where the hunky Tatum made a living pre-stardom. But “XXL” is a lame road picture dramedy about aging “Male Entertainers” on the road from Tampa to the Big Stripper C0nvention in Myrtle Beach, S.C., capital of the Redneck Riviera, for “one last (bleeping) ride.”
Along the way, they stop and check out a Jacksonville drag club and a members-only female wish fulfillment fantasy bordello run by Mike’s ex (Jada Pinkett Smith) in sexy Savannah.
All because Richie (Joe Manganiello) and the remaining Kings of Tampa have convinced single-again struggling furniture “upcycling” business owner Mike (Tatum) that they deserve “a tsunami of dollar bills” one last time. And before you can sing “It’s raining tens,” it’s raining $10s.
The realism here comes from the incredibly salty language and drug use — Molly (MDMa/Ecstasy) and pot, freely consumed by one and (almost) all as they’re on lumbering along in a food truck on their way to their destiny. That turns into a pretty good joke about manic drug side-effects (“Let’s come up with a whole new show!”) followed by a tirade-tossing/weepy comedown.
Crashing a Charleston house party leads to an affirmation of how sexy a gaggle of cougars led by Ditching the dead-weight studio exec’s daughter who played the love interest in “Magic Mike” was smart.Andie MacDowell are. Pinkett-Smith vamps and struts through the scenes as Rome, whose African-American strip club features Michael Strahan in a stripper cameo. Manganiello’s Richie cuts loose in a “make this convenience store clerk’s day” bit on a dare, the highlight of the movie.
But “XXL” sorely misses the world-weary swagger of Matthew McConaughey and the light touch of “Magic Mike” director Steven Soderbergh. Veteran Soderbergh assistant director Gregory Jacobs put much of his effort into shooting in near total darkness (on a beach, in clubs, in car rides) and pandering — also known as “giving women what they want.” There’s lots of shirtless bumping and grinding with characters shoehorned in to appeal to African American and Latino audiences. There’s no other explanation for the inclusion of the comic aptly nicknamed “Fluffy” (Gabriel Iglesias) in the crew.
Mike is paired up with the bi-curious Zoe, played by the Johnny Depp’s famous switch-hitting bride, a too-subdued Amber Heard. Their flirtations have a clunky, improvised feel. Improvisation isn’t Tatum’s strong suit. Like Mike, he knows how his bread is buttered.
“I’m still pretty!”
And so he is.
The dancing is well-executed and staged, and the club scenes are fun. The banter may be forced and the formula the film follows exhausted. But quibbling with “Magic Mike XXL” is like griping about the latest turns in the “Step Up” saga. Nobody will hear you over the girlish squeals of delight from the paying customers.
Cast: Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello, Amber Heard, Jada Pinkett Smith,
Credits: Directed by Gregory Jacobs, script by Reid Carolin. A Warner Brothers release.
Running time: 1:55