New stripping movie all talk, no strip

In the climax, Mike (Channing Tatum) and this other random guy they picked up along the way (Michael Strahan) do this bit where they each give a lapdance on the opposite sides of an empty mirror frame, performing the exact same moves in a lengthy, highly choreographed dance. Impressive, with someone you met a day ago and never talked with onscreen. Photos courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures.

In the title Magic Mike XXL, the XXL is supposed to mean extra extra large, implicitly referring to the lead character’s penis. However, at an astounding 130 minutes, about 10 of which is stripping and about a million of which is lame, stiff dialogue scenes, it’d be more accurate if it stood for extra extra long.

The sequel to the 2012 hit, ostensibly about Channing Tatum’s life as a stripper before he achieved stardom, isn’t much of a sequel, with none of the four principle secondary characters returning. Characters like Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello) and Tarzan (Kevin Nash), background characters who the first movie left undeveloped, take center stage. As such, this movie is easier to watch and much better when viewed as its own independent story, which coincidentally has characters that feel really underdeveloped.

Three years after “Magic” Mike Martingano (Tatum) left the drug-filled, sex-crazed dead end world of stripping to pursue his passion, furniture sales, he gets a call from Tarzan recruiting him on a last ride to the stripping convention in Myrtle Beach. On the way, the estranged Martingano rekindles relationships with his old colleagues, and they all face private demons related to loneliness and growing old.

Then, suddenly, Donald Glover!

First thing’s first — ladies, you will be disappointed. Magic Mike XXL is a movie about stripping the same way Star Wars is a movie about awarding medals. It all happens at the end after a bunch of other stuff you don’t necessarily care about that doesn’t connect with the stripping scenes in any way. It’ll all be on Youtube soon. If abs are the reason you want to see this movie you absolutely should not go.

The climactic stripping scene is only there because it’s what people paid to see, and it feels that way. It’s a convention and there’s supposed to be some sort of competition, but the standard dancers vs. dancers plotlines are completely avoided. We’re never even introduced to another stripper team. This is a fantastic thing — those plotlines are overworked beyond description and weren’t good in the first place — but the film doesn’t connect the scene to the barely there internal conflicts that drove it to that point. Calling the scene climactic isn’t even accurate, because it’s not a climax at all. It doesn’t resolve, or even have anything to do with any other part of the movie.

Then, suddenly, Elizabeth Banks!

Instead, this is a road movie about finding one’s identity outside of the workplace, which all the main characters must do as their boss from the first movie abandoned them, and they all realize they’re getting too old to be prancing around a stage scrounging for ones anyway. It’s an ambitious script, but nowhere near as successful as the first movie in tackling these themes.

All the relationships are understated and ineffective. In the first movie, Martingano had interesting relationships and dynamics with the kid and Dallas and Joanna, and in this one he just doesn’t.

Magic Mike XXL is a step down in the stripping and the between-stripping character drama and the supporting actors and the direction and the execution of its themes, which are exactly the same as the first film. There are background colors other than yellow because Steven Soderbergh isn’t directing this one, though he is editing it so it still feels a lot like his work, but that’s the only thing XXL does better or even much differently than the first Magic Mike. Why watch a sequel that doesn’t offer anything new?

Leopold Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist and journalism student at the University of North Texas. They took  Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas off Netflix. I’ve had a change of heart about reader input. It is now welcomed and encouraged. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter @reelentropy, and shoot questions to reelentropy@gmail.com.

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