Magic Mike XXL (2015)

(Video on Demand, October 2015)  I’m repeating myself, but the key to enjoy the Magic Mike films if you have no interest in male stripping is to see the series as a particular kind of dance film, complete with good music and exceptional choreography.  Through this optics, Magic Mike XXL actually becomes fun to watch, whether it’s Channing Tatum’s character giving himself an impromptu dance treat alone in his workshop, Joe Manganiello’s character charming the smile off a convenience store clerk, or a very clever final mirrored-dance number.  It helps that this sequel isn’t as self-consciously showy as the first film: Steven Soderbergh here remains rather discreet as the film’s director of photography and editor, but the film itself seems far more accessibly directed by long-time Soderberg associate Gregory Jacobs.  The road-trip format also seems like a natural fit for a series of stripping numbers loosely held together; the interlude at a very particular strip club owned by Jada Pinkett Smith’s character is a bit of a highlight in how it presents an intriguing take on the female gaze (albeit one filtered through a male screenwriter and director) in a film consciously made to appeal to women.  It is, in other words, both a fun and fascinating film, minimizing conflict and presenting a unique take on males bonding over art.  No, it’s not quite as good (objectively speaking) as the first film.  But Magic Mike XXL is entertaining, warm, occasionally joyful and a bit of a welcome change of pace.

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