A sequel to “Magic Mike” has a big G-string to fill. In 2012, Act One snuck up on the public like a surprise bachelorette party. More than just a role-reversal fantasy for connoisseurs of stud muffins, the “Citizen Kane” of male-stripper movies was a character-driven dramedy with an A-list director.
For “Magic Mike XXL,” Steven Soderbergh has vacated the director’s chair, handing the baton to his longtime assistant, Gregory Jacobs. Also missing is Matthew McConaughey, who was irresistible as swivel-hipped emcee Dallas.
The absence of McConaughey is both an intrinsic loss and opportunity for this movie to embrace its own stupidity from the get-go. When retired stripper and successful furniture builder Mike (Channing Tatum) gets a message saying Dallas has died, he shows up at a Tampa hotel for what he expects to be a memorial service. Instead it’s a pool party where his former colleagues confess that Dallas merely moved to Macau with his star attraction, the Kid (Alex Pettyfer). Hardy-har. And just like that, Mike agrees to shirk his business and join the other dudes for one last blow-out performance, at a stripper convention in South Carolina.
The l-o-n-g road from Tampa to Myrtle Beach is the meat of the movie, but it’s downright gamey. Imagine being stuck in a bus with five sub-literate, steroidal freaks and a drug-dealing deejay. Been there, done that.
Now in their 30s, the meatheads have vague plans for their future. Phallic wonder Richie (Joe Manganiello) has dreams of starting a condom company. Tito (Adam Rodriguez) wants to sell artisanal snow cones. Divorced cutie Ken (Matt Bomer) is into yoga. And towering Tarzan (Kevin Nash) just wants to party like a wild animal. Even Tatum, who has been so entertaining when working with other talents, is betrayed by the aimless script. As Brett Ratner might say, character development is for sissies.
Speaking of which, this movie understands that the “Magic Mike” franchise is not just for sexually frustrated white women. But although there’s a pit stop at a drag bar, and Bomer continually makes goo-goo eyes at the other dancers, the movie drops the ball by keeping all the boys in hetero lockdown.
Even the outreach to black audiences, with an extended stop at a red-lighted roadhouse/brothel run by Mike’s old flame Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith) gets pulled back, as the best male dancers from that scene are not showcased in the big finale.
Director Jacobs seems to have no clue how to stage and pace a dance number.
His default image is a scruffy male face in the crotch of an afterthought female audience member.
He turns Andie MacDowell into a toothless cougar and even wastes the assets of Amber Heard, one of the hottest women on the planet, in the sexless role of a blasé belle who gets lured into Mike’s final performance.
And yet emcee Rome insists on hailing such faceless, fleeced women as “queens” for whom the dancers are merely servants.
With stingy portions and plenty of filler, “Magic Mike XXL” is the worst sausage party ever.
‘Magic Mike XXL’
Two stars out of four
Run time • 1:55
Rating • R
Content • Strong sexual content, pervasive language, some nudity and drug use