by Bethany Rose
In the sequel to the massive 2012 hit film Magic Mike, Mike (Channing Tatum) and most of his male entertainer crew hit the road for one last hurrah, as they make their way to a stripping competition. Along the way, the guys heal old wounds, flirt with a variety of eager women, and (very) occasionally take off their clothes. In many ways, Magic Mike XXL was exactly what I was expecting from a Magic Mike sequel, but for the most part it surprised me, just not in a good way.
I did not expect this film to be as surprisingly deep as the first. Sure, Magic Mike had lots of shirtless montages, but there was also a great story surrounding Mike's desire to make a better life for himself, leave the male entertaining business and start his own business, and find a meaningful relationship. XXL threw all of those things out of the window (much like the characters throw their old costumes out of the window of a moving food truck), but instead of replacing the intriguing narrative with even more shirtless moments, the film became a rambling buddy film/road trip film that felt like a dollar bin version of a Jim Jarmusch film.
In its attempt to be a road trip film, XXL somehow turned into a fragmented jumble of stories, with only two good enough to hold their own or make interesting vignettes. I appreciate that each of the troupe members were given a chance at exposition, whereas the first film was mostly Mike, Adam, and Dallas, XXL incorporates more story for Big Dick Richie, Tarzan, and Ken, but none of it gels. Tarzan's characterization as the most cultured of the guys feels incredibly forced, but not as much as the supposed conflict between Ken and Mike (if anything, I thought there would be more conflict between Richie and Mike). None of these stories come close to being as compelling as Mike's fight for his dreams or Adam's descent into darkness that were the real backbone of the first film.
Then there's the issue of Mike seeming to give up on all of his dreams from the first film. It is understandable that not everything turned out as he had hoped, but the driven Mike from the first film would likely turn those failures into more determination; instead, Mike seems to fall back on his former life with minimal hesitation, quickly embracing his former status as one of the greatest male entertainers. One of my biggest pet peeves about sequels is undoing a major component of the first film, and XXL nearly undoes the entire heart of its predecessor.
But as much as I enjoyed the story of Magic Mike, I'd be lying if I said I didn't initially watch that film with the hopes of seeing Mike and crew perform. I loved those scenes just as much as the more dramatic scenes, and I had a feeling XXL would include even more. It didn't. In fact, I felt that there was a lot less of the entertaining. The two scenes that provided the most male entertaining were the two most successful scenes of the film, but even they were flawed (I rather liked Rome and Andre, but I felt they were introduced too late in the film).
While I don't always think it is fair to compare a sequel to the original, XXL did not match up to Magic Mike. The first was a film that appealed to those looking for story and those looking for stripping. The problem with XXL is that it was appealing to a small audience, that of the cast, who definitely had more fun reprising their roles and creating new ones than most of the audience did watching the film. Or, at least that is what I thought until the audience erupted in applause at the film's end. And then I realized, as flawed as I thought the film was, and as much as I thought I didn't like it, I knew I would be watching it again, meaning that the film left this reviewer as confused as the plot itself.Share: