I have a friend who seems to get advance screening tickets to movies every week. This week was Magic Mike XXL (or as I will say from here on out: Magic Mike 2, because come on, XXL?! Eek). Thankfully, the corny sequel identifier is the worst thing about this movie in my opinion. I enjoyed the first Magic Mike. I admit, I went to see Channing Tatum dance, without high expectations. The first movie definitely surpassed said expectations, having more depth and better characters and acting than I hoped to see. Magic Mike 2 managed to surprise me again. This is a sequel that is head and shoulders (and washboard abs) better than the first one. If you liked Magic Mike, you are going to enjoy Magic Mike 2 twice as much.
First of all, MM2 brings the goods. As promised by the cast in press interviews over the last couple weeks, this movie has more dancing and more stripping than the first, with less cliché hunky tropes, and an awesome soundtrack. Almost the entire ensemble cast that make up the “Kings of Tampa” are back. The movie builds on the existing characters well. All the guys get more screen time and development than they had in the first movie, not to mention the dialogue is better-written. The plot also transitions missing players out of the story smoothly and in a manner consistent with what we know of their character—this is something that always wins points with me in a sequel.
Overall, there is more comedy and less drama in Magic Mike 2, but it still has heart. I imagine most viewers will appreciate this, or else will be laughing too hard to notice. The plot centers around a road trip to a convention. Like many journey-driven stories, the different adventures on the way to the destination are slightly disjointed. However I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the characters interact with a dynamic set of circumstances and people. This mode of story made for a quick pace and some very, very memorable scenes. Cough, cough, convenience store, drag club, condiments, cough cough. (You’ll understand once you’ve seen the movie.)
The most refreshing and unexpected element of Magic Mike 2 for me was the series of fun appearances by diverse, multi-generational “pop-culture figures”. Stephen (aka Twitch) Boss was my favorite. He elevated the dancing and undoubtedly made Channing Tatum work for his title of smoothest, sexiest male entertainer (jury is still out in my opinion, and that is high praise coming from someone who has followed Channing Tatum since the first Step Up). Some others you’ll find hanging around the edges of the story are: Elizabeth Banks, Michael Strahan (weird, right?!?), Jada Pinkett Smith, Donald Glover, and Andie MacDowell.
Like the first Magic Mike, XXL is unashamed to both sell itself and make fun of itself. It is a non-judgmental celebration of sexuality in many parts, and a cocky acknowledgment of its audience the rest of the time. As someone who recently checked out a touring performance of Thunder from Down Under, I’d say Magic Mike 2 is a cheaper, better way to spend a couple of hours enjoying the male form. Whether you are ultimately going for the moves or the muscles, it just doesn’t get much better than Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello, and Twitch.