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'Magic Mike XXL' Review: Even More Magical

'Magic Mike XXL' Review: Even More Magical

The Magic Mike films have always been marketed as purely eye candy, stripper films to get the ladies to come to theaters in droves. Admittedly, after a $100 million domestic take for the first film, it clearly worked. The truth is that the films have some male strippers in them, but they're really about the characters and the interactions between them. It's hardly wanton stripping that the advertising would have you believe; the first stripping scene doesn't even happen until about halfway through the film. What isn't disappointing is that the Magic Mike XXL takes the conceit of the first film, a dancer who wants to escape into something greater, and takes a more comedic route to being one of the most enjoyable films of 2015.

Following the events of the first Magic Mike, the sequel takes place three years later as the boys gather together for one last hurrah at the Myrtle Beach stripper convention. Mike, who has given up the life for his fledgling carpentry business, joins them on the final journey to put their pasts to rest. While the film lacks the charismatic Dallas (Matthew McConaughey) this go around, the new cast more than makes up for his absence, including Jada Pinkett-Smith as Rome, Mike's ex-flame and Donald Glover as Andre, a crooning stripper with Rome's crew. The film embraces its premise and never backs down from the fact that it ultimately exists as a crew of ripped guys who like to take their clothes off for a living having a road trip. Gregory Jacobs also takes over for Steven Soderbergh in directing duties, but I wouldn't have known Soderbergh didn't direct it were it not for the credits (Jacobs was Soderbergh's longtime assistant director, and their styles are quite similar). 

While the first Magic Mike was a relatively serious drama with comedic undertones, this iteration is a comedy, through and through. It does, however, grapple with some serious themes, including Mike's own internal struggle with a less than perfect home life, but the laughs are constant throughout the film. The supporting cast is also far more memorable this time around. Each character is given plenty of time to shine, and while Magic Mike was Channing Tatum's movie, Magic Mike XXL is a team effort. Most notably, Joe Manganiello's Big Dick Richie has an absolutely career defining scene in a convenience store set to the backdrop of the Backstreet Boys' seminal classic, I Want It That Way.  Every member of the crew is distinct, has their own desires and are fleshed out to a degree that makes them feel like real people, rather than vacant canvases with great abs. 

I'd be remiss if I didn't take time to point out the dance choreography is incredible in the film. The final act at the stripper convention featuring individual dances for every member of the crew stands out as an absolute highlight with some of the most entertaining dance moves I can recall in recent memory. Even Michael Strahan gets in on the action in an amazing cameo, complete with a full dance number, during the introduction to Rome's club. Amber Heard's Zoe exists as an emotional companion to Mike, someone else who is going through a personal struggle and needs a release, yet the film interestingly avoids the typical cliches of most on screen romances. I'd make the case that the relationship between the two characters was more akin to a friendship than a lover's dance, although there was definitely great chemistry between the two characters. 

Magic Mike XXL is unabashedly self aware and provided me with one of the funniest and most entertaining films of 2015. The perfect summer film, it allows us to lose ourselves for two hours and leave with a feeling of elation. Tatum and his crew give us laughs, amazing dance moves, and something more for the audience to view them as rather than just strippers . They're MALE ENTERTAINERS. 

Final Say: Watch It

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