Magic Mike XXL: Silly, Plotless yet Vastly Entertaining

magic_mike_xxl_posterThough silly, plotless, and pointless, Magic Mike XXL offers unapologetically and unabashedly glossy and enjoyable mass entertainment, the kind of which doesn’t require any work (or intelligence) from its viewers while watching the gorgeous bodies and erotic moves of half a dozen hot actors.

Size matter, though I would argue that the sequel to the 2012 sleeper merits XL, not XXL.  A guilty pleasure par excellence, Magic Mike XXL should appeal to the two major demographic groups that have made the first picture a box office hit, grossing  domestically over $113 million.  Reports have shown that the first film was largely supported  by middle-aged women and gay men, and there is no reason why the sequel should fail to please them.

magic_mike_xxl_5_tatumIf my reading is right, XXL should do better commercially than the original film, which since its release has acquired the status of a minor cult picture, subject to repeat viewings on DVD and other ancillary modes.

What I find perplexing is the lack of strong support for the picture in foreign markets. Magic Mike has made only $55 million internationally (about one third, rather than the half or more, of the overall haul).  This may indicate that the main marquee name, the handsome Channing Tatum, is still a very much an American star, with limited appeal abroad.

The visual pleasures of Magic Mike XXL rely on a good deal on voyeurism and fetishism.  Soderbergh, who functions as producer, cinematographer and editor glides his caressing camera over the muscled bodies, here and there offering close-ups of his men’s shapely pecs, shiny and fine-tuned abs, tight thongs and glossy G-strings, Tatum’s sexy lips–and not to underestimate flattering butt shots of Matt Bomer, who is significantly the only openly gay thespian in the cast.  If my description make the picture seem like a soft-corn porn, then it really is.

magic_mike_xxl_7_tatum_pinkett_smithOne of the smartest filmmakers in the business, Soderbergh, who directed the first flick and has relegated to helming of this one to his loyal assistant director and partner, Gregory Jacobs, knows that that material is ridiculous–borderline trashy camp.  But he also savvy enough to know how to deliver the expected good in alluring low-budget feature, whose cost is estimated to be about $14 million (the first film cost only $7 million).

Likely to divide reviewers along lines of middle-brow versus lowbrow lines, XXL is not critics proof in a way that The Avengers and Jurassic World are, but the spectators likely to see this movie on opening weekend are not going to read reviews, or influence by them if they do read them.

magic_mike_xxl_8_tatum_pinkett_smithIt’s too bad that two of the main characters that have contributed to the triumph of the first film and its impact, Matthew McConaughey, as Dallas, the eccentric strip club owner, and Alex Pettyfer, the immature wunderkind stripper, are not back for they are very much missed, both as figures and as actors; we are told that Dallas had fled the country.

Magic Mike benefited from being a plot-driven feature, with well-defined characters, each defined by specific motivations and an arc, which allowed the audience to engage emotionally in their various conflicts (both internal and external), existential crises, personal growth (or lack of), and sort of semi-satisfying resolutions.

Watch the Trailer

magic_mike_xxl_9_tatum“XXL” picks up about where the first film left off, with a few significant changes: Mike, no longer a stripper, has realized his dream of launching a furniture-designing business, and he is single, having been dumped by his girlfriend.

The meager plot, such as it is, kicks in when Mike’s old stripper buddies– Richie (Joe Manganiello), Ken (Bomer), Tito (Adam Rodriguez) and Tarzan (Kevin Nash)– call their leader up, asking him to join in on one last hurrah (it’s always one last mission), a male-stripper convention at Myrtle Beach on Fourth of July weekend. (AS if to support the notion of the picture’s release date, July 1)

magic_mike_xxl_11_tatum_banksInitially, Mike balks at the offer, reminding his mates that he really wanted out of the game and now owns a prosperous business. Why should he road trip from Tampa to South Carolina in a fro-yo food truck with a duffel bag full of tear-away pants and handcuffs?

But then, as fate, or rather Hollywood formulaic logic, interferes. Ginuwine’s raunchy “Pony,”Mike’s signature stripping song, plays on Spotify, and suddenly, the man who swore off stripping is grinding away in his workshop.

magic_mike_xxl_10_tatumFrom that point on, XXL assumes the shape o a road movie, a genre that depends on the stops made along the way and the various personalities enountered–two issues that thematically represent the sequel’s major shortcomigs.



A longer review will be published later today