It’s rare to see a sequel surpass it’s predecessor. However in the case of Gregory Jacobs Magic Mike XXL – taking over the helm from Steven Soderbergh, who remains on in an editing capacity – that’s exactly what has happened. It’s a film that, while not nearly as nuanced nor intimate as what came before, thrives in the big set-pieces, with an unrelenting commitment to entertainment. So here’s a film that lives up to its title, and then some.
Channing Tatum returns as Mike, who had given up stripping so he could start his own business, and settle down. However when his former colleague Tarzan (Kevin Nash) calls to let him know they’re in town, he decides to visit – and it’s there he has his head turned, persuaded to have one final blowout and perform with his old troupe the Kings of Tampa yet again, at the forthcoming convention in Myrtle Beach. So while Dallas has left the collective, Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello), Ken (Matt Bomer) and Tito (Adam Rodriguez) remain – and they set off across the country for this final show. However along the way they encounter several people, some old (Jada Pinkett Smith) and some new (Amber Heard).
Though there’s been a change of director, the film still manages to get behind the facade in a way that Soderbergh revels in, as, much like the initial endeavour and the likes of Behind the Candelabra, he has a unique aptitude for taking something that appears really glamorous on the outside, and yet makes it seem so seedy; so human. Jacobs has managed to find a way to give the fans what they want, and yet with a minimum contrivance, such as when Mike decides he wants to dance again, there’s a cheeky, knowing glint in his eyes, implemented for us – but it doesn’t feel out of place in a film that revels in its playful, effervescent tone. The title has a unique structure too, as it’s episodic: split almost into a series of lengthy scenes, each telling stories in their own right, and yet managing to maintain a sense of linearity throughout.
This film doesn’t build towards an implicative finale: it’s a convention, not a competition, and in some ways Magic Mike XXL adds very little to the franchise, at least from a narrative perspective. It doesn’t drive this story forwards, but it doesn’t really matter. You simply want to be back in their company. Some filmmakers can be accused of trying too hard to have a significant progression in their sequels, while inadvertently losing sight of what the fans of the initial picture truly loved. This however, gives us everything we could have possibly wished for.