Sitting through “Magic Mike XXL” is like being a sober straight guy at a drunken bachelorette party where you not only have to sit through an endless medley of Cirque-du-Soleil-meets-Chippendales dance routines — you have to listen to the dancers TALK ABOUT LIFE between routines.
Kill me now.
My negativity comes not from a place of fear of the sculpted, unclothed, gyrating male body. Given that Natalie Wood, Jessica Alba, Daryl Hannah, Jessica Biel, Demi Moore, Lindsay Lohan, Natalie Portman, Elizabeth Berkley, Salma Hayek, Joanne Woodward, Lolita Davidovich, Heather Graham, Brigitte Bardot, Halle Berry, Kristen Stewart, Lucy Liu, Penelope Ann Miller, Rebecca Romijn, Marisa Tomei and let’s stop now before we run out of review space have played strippers, we’d need another 25 “Magic Mikes” (PLEASE NO) before the playing field would be close to even.
Having said that, this movie is so excruciatingly dumb I felt as if someone had shaved 10 points off my I.Q. by the time I bolted for the exits. Of all the films about a lovable, ragtag band of (bank robbers, crime fighters, inter-galactic adventurers) who team up for “one last ride,” male stripper has to be the least fertile ground for character development and dramatic closure. I mean, even these guys don’t seem to care all that much about what they’re going to do once they step off the stage and put away the man-grooming equipment.
We pick up the storyline three years after the events of “Magic Mike.” (Which I liked quite a bit, by the way.) Matthew McConaughey’s sleazy charmer Dallas is nowhere to be seen in the sequel, but Channing Tatum returns as the titular character, who’s now living out his dream of running that business where he makes and sells crappy-looking furniture.
Tatum has come a long way since his “Step Up” days (he was excellent in last year’s “Foxcatcher”), but he makes a number of unfortunate choices here.
First there’s the matter of the baseball cap, worn backwards and with the bill tilted to the side, in the manner of a musclehead, meathead, d-bag with barbed-wire biceps tattoos at a pool party in Las Vegas. Tatum is in remarkable shape, but he IS 35, and he looks like an idiot in that cap. It doesn’t help that he mumbles most of his lines like a disinterested NBA player in the losing locker room.
Mike’s out of the stripping game for good — or so he thinks until the old gang shows up in Tampa and persuades him to join them on a road trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for the annual stripper’s convention, which takes place on the 4th of July weekend, and I can’t think of anything more depressing than spending the 4th of July at a stripper’s convention anywhere.
The crew includes Joe Manganiello’s Big Dick Richie, Kevin Nash’s Tarzan, Matt Bomer’s Ken and Adam Rodriguez’s Tito. Each dude gets a paper-thin storyline. Ken wants to sing. Tito wants to operate a frozen yogurt business. Tarzan wants to be an artist.
You know those road movies where amazing things happen to our heroes and they encounter all manner of obstacles on their quest? This isn’t one of those movies. These guys look like they should be heading for a serious round of STD tests as they ingest Molly, engage in prolonged conversations about life and love, pick up babes, work on their dance routines and argue about whether or not they should abandon the old moves and just “go for it” at the big dance-off at the stripper convention.
Jada Pinkett Smith overacts every inch of her being as the operator of a brothel-esque male strip club in Savannah, Georgia. Amber Heard has an embarrassing role as a rebel without a clue. Andie MacDowell provides a little spark as the leader of a pack of wine-swilling, sex-deprived real housewives, but the scene in which the stripper dudes and the sad cougars get real and talk about sex and romance is painfully dull.
As for the dance routines…
One imagines groups of women will attend “Magic Mike XXL” and scream “Wooooo!” and also “Wooooohooo!” when the boys strip down to the bare essentials and do their thing. Tatum and a few other dancers perform remarkable gymnastic moves, twirling and writhing and bumping and grinding with admittedly impressive athleticism.
But the big finale, in which each of the main guys gets his own set piece, complete with elaborate sets and a specific theme, is beyond absurd. I know: I’m not the target audience. Perhaps the fans whocome to “Magic Mike XXL” for nothing more than a silly, steamy good time will find just that.
Enjoy. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you about all that male-stripper conversation.
Warner Bros. presents a film directed by Gregory Jacobs. Written by Reid Carolin. Rated R (for strong sexual content, pervasive language, some nudity and drug use). Run time: 115 minutes. Opening Wednesday at local theaters.