Magic Mike XXL (2015)

I am so sick of how Hugh Jackman can do anything: sing, dance, act, build muscle, be charming, carry a bad movie, etc. And how many of you knew that Seth MacFarlane, comedy writer, voiceover artist and creator/producer of several successful television shows (let’s not discuss his movies) can also croon like Frank Sinatra? I know, crazy, right?! Well, it’s true, movies and television are littered with sickeningly talented people who make us want to curl up under a blanket whenever we try to keep the beat to the latest dance craze or hold a key during karaoke. But, then again, the acting, singing and dancing thing is really an elite sport, isn’t it? If you’re really good at any of them, it’s kind of like being good at tennis or golf—you study at fancy places and then you spend your career performing in front of quiet cameras or rich crowds who give you polite, respectful applause. Broadway is the ultimate destination for triple-threat actors, not Hollywood, even though Hollywood is where they occasionally moonlight (read: slum) for financial sustenance. Theatre is where the real talent is.

Unless you’re Channing Tatum.

I would love to have seen his headshot/resume as he was trying to break into acting. Down in the “skills” section, I wonder if it just said “dancing” or if it actually said “exotic dancing” or even “stripper dancing,” the same way other actors claim “juggling” or “conversational Italian.” Because Tatum, currently an A-list movie star, thanks to star turns in hits such as Dear John, 21 Jump Street, and Magic Mike, does not—very much to his credit— shy away from the fact that he was a male dancer before he became famous. In fact, most actors who had the meteoric rise to fame that he has had would most likely try to put as much distance as possible between himself and his pre-fame background, especially when taking on recent dramatic roles in Oscar-nominated movies such as Foxcatcher. Instead, Tatum has embraced his past because—guess what—he’s not ashamed. Good for him. And he’s enormously talented. Good for us. Tatum may not be gifted in the particular brand of dancing that suits Broadway, but, thankfully, Hollywood has found a way to make use of just what brand he is good at in two movies, first in 2012’s Magic Mike and now in its sequel, Magic Mike XXL, which is an even bigger, bolder and talent-rich display of muscle tone and flexibility combined with rhythm and eroticism that may just make you reach for that blanket to curl under for entirely different reasons.

Magic Mike XXL is a sequel to Magic Mike, yes. It does have some of the same characters and actors, as well as the same writer, yes. Even though it doesn’t have the same director (Steven Soderbergh directed the first, Gregory Jacobs directed this one), you really wouldn’t know it because both movies are dreadfully wooden (oh, how I wish there was a pun intended) in all scenes except the ones that actually feature dancing/stripping. And, just like the first movie, I found myself wanting to scream the exact same thing at the screen throughout most of the film: We’re not here for character building, come on. Take your shirts off!!!

But I should be fair. These guys have real feelings and I’m sorry if I’m making them feel like man-meat. The cast really is terrific to spend two hours with. It is a massive saving grace that Alex Pettyfer from the first Magic Mike is gone, as he was toxic as an actor, but, oddly enough, I actually found myself missing Matthew McConaughey this time, because it left a real hole in the comic relief department. But, surprisingly, it’s Joe Manganiello who steps up to the plate and takes over the movie in the personality and charm department, leaving the rest of the cast—even Channing Tatum— in his wake. He barely had any lines in the first movie, but he makes the most of his beefed up presence here, especially in the most fun scene of the film. As for the star, Tatum feels wasted, acting-wise, as he had much more to do in the first movie. I’m actually not even sure what he’s doing here, story-wise, as he’s floundering along with the rest of the plot. Of course, there’s no script to work with, I even feel bored trying to write about it now. I’m ready to move on to what makes this movie worth anything at all.

HOLY COW. Are you kidding me?? How do people move their bodies like that? I will tell you one thing, I am not particularly “into” the male form but this movie was awfully fun to watch. It takes its time to get going, but, once it does, there are two major sequences, both towards the end, that make sitting through the rest of this below-average movie truly worthwhile. You may think it’s just about guys taking their clothes off…..oh, forget it, that’s exactly what it is. But it’s about guys taking their clothes off (and dancing) in the most intensely how-is-that-physically-possible, ouch-that-makes-my-back-hurt-just-watching ways that you can imagine. This movie features some jaw-dropping sequences, packed with choreography that will make you literally gasp—and if you are a single heterosexual woman, I can’t imagine what else it might make you do. And here’s what I love about this movie: we’re not talking Cirque du Soleil or Dancing with the Stars choreography here. We’re talking erotic, raw, raunchy, sexual, fierce and rough choreography that is meant to heighten desire, ignite passion and stir emotion—with every seductive innuendo imaginable. There is no respectful applause here. This is down and dirty stuff and it leaves nobody unsoiled. This is girls’ night out to the maximum—hard core, hard bodies that are hard to resist.

And Channing Tatum? His talents make Hugh Jackman and Seth MacFarlane look like playground wannabes. Do they teach this at Julliard? Wow. Just….wow. Good for you, boys. Good for you.

Magic Mike XXL is a seriously fun, sexy and vibrant movie, when it’s not trying to be more than it is. The dance scenes are outrageously well done and so much better than the first movie. Jada Pinkett Smith (in a killer feminist role—believe it) and Joe Manganiello steal the movie from Channing Tatum, which is hard to do, but the dancing is the reason to see it. Just know that you’ll have to sit through a lot of talk before you get to the good stuff. But, when you get to the good stuff, prepare to be really, REALLY bad. And like it.