“Magic Mike” was a raunchy comedy with an indie soul. Thanks to eclectic director Steven Soderbergh, its story of lovable male strippers charmed its way to almost $170 million worldwide.
Because Hollywood law requires every successful movie to have a sequel, the boys are back in “Magic Mike XXL.” Writer Reid Carolin has also returned, and Soderbergh has passed the baton to his longtime assistant director, Gregory Jacobs. Instead of trying to replicate or outdo the original, Jacobs and Carolin take a cue from their characters and just have fun with it.
After giving up stripping, Mike Lane (Channing Tatum) is running a modestly successful business when a call from old buddy Tarzan (Kevin Nash) reunites him with the Xquisite crew (minus Dallas and the Kid). There’s a stripper convention in Myrtle Beach, and Tarzan, Richie (Joe Manganiello) and the others (Adam Rodriguez and Matt Bomer) want one last hurrah before they’re all too old for the job.
With their goofy driver (Gabriel Iglesias), the guys slowly make their way up the coast, stopping to visit old friends (Jada Pinkett Smith as Mike’s former boss) and new ones (Andie MacDowell as a divorcee who … appreciates Richie’s assets). Mike also meets an aspiring photographer (Amber Heard) after getting dumped by his girlfriend from the first movie.
Jacobs and Carolin don’t try to force drama and romance into the story the way Soderbergh did, which is for the better. This is not a setting that inspires serious contemplation. The leads have a loose, easy camaraderie, made stronger by the absence of Matthew McConaughey’s scene-stealing Dallas. It’s an ensemble piece this time, and everyone takes to it naturally.
Carolin’s script has a lifetime supply of f-bombs, but just when that gets irritating, he springs a literary reference or a joke about Greek mythology into the conversation. He’s a smart writer creating smart characters, even when they’re all being juvenile.
The lack of a real plot makes “Magic Mike XXL” drag sometimes, as everyone tries desperately to fill those 115 minutes. Some of the results are great — Manganiello’s attempt to impress a bored sales clerk, Smith schooling the men on female empowerment — but they fall flat nearly as often.
The big finale in Myrtle Beach is worth the wait and nearly pushes the film’s R rating right into the ocean. They may not be kids anymore, but these guys have moves that’ll make women want to wave dollar bills around and scream for more. A couple hundred million should do the trick.
Rated R for strong sexual content, pervasive language, some nudity and drug use.
Read more of Loey Lockerby’s work at suchacritic.com.
‘MAGIC MIKE XXL’
Rated R | Time: 1:55
Opens at 7 p.m. Tuesday