[Screen It]


(2015) (Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello) (R)

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Dramedy: A former male stripper reunites with his old performance team for one last blowout at a national male strippers convention.
It's been three years since Mike (CHANNING TATUM) last performed as a male stripper at the Xquisite Strip Club in Florida. Since then, he's started his own business, but when his former colleagues -- "Big Dick" Richie (JOE MANGANIELLO), Ken (MATT BOMER), Tarzan (KEVIN NASH) and Tito (ADAM RODRIGUEZ), along with their emcee, Tobias (GABRIEL IGLESIAS) -- inform him they're planning one last big blowout at a male strippers convention in Myrtle Beach, he gets the bug again and joins them.

They set off on a road trip to South Carolina, stopping along the way to visit Mike's former flame, Rome (JADA PINKETT SMITH), who now runs a private club where the likes of Andre (DONALD GLOVER), Augustus (MICHAEL STRAHAN) and Malik (STEPHEN BOSS) perform for the enjoyment of her female clientele. With Tobias now sidelined due to an accident, Mike would like Rome to be their new emcee, and she agrees once he proves he still has the moves.

Their trip continues with a stopover at the home of a wealthy Southern lady, Nancy Davidson (ANDIE MacDOWELL), who -- along with her fellow middle-aged friends -- enjoys the company of the male strippers. It's there that Mike runs into Zoe (AMBER HEARD), a photographer he briefly met a few days earlier, and a romance brews between the two. But then it's time to get to the convention -- run by Paris (ELIZABETH BANKS) -- where Mike, his team and some of Rome's performers reconfigure their act in hopes of entertaining the female audience.

OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10
Here's my view of strip clubs as someone who's never stepped foot into one, and never really had any desire to do so. For those featuring ladies, they seem like demeaning, sad places where women use their bodies to try to make a living, while men with more money watch to get their jollies.

Yes, I realize there are "high class" such joints, some of which may be run by women, and some of the dancers might be making a lot of money doing their thing, but it's still a degrading, body over mind existence. I suppose the same could be said about male strippers and the establishments in which they work, but for some reason -- perhaps because I'm a guy -- it doesn't seem as insulting on any level.

And as a "Saturday Night Live" skit from so long ago proved -- the one featuring Patrick Swayze and Chris Farley as distinctly different sorts of Chippendales dancers -- it just seems so silly when oiled up, six-pack sporting dudes gyrate around in next to nothing. That's part of what makes "Magic Mike XXL" something of an entertaining diversion.

It's the sequel to the regular-sized 2012 male stripper dramedy that -- natch -- featured Matthew McConaughey sans his shirt and helped turn Channing Tatum into an even bigger star, but also -- surprisingly -- was helmed by Steven Soderbergh (the director behind "Traffic," "Erin Brockovich" and so on).

The director hasn't returned -- he's been replaced by Gregory Jacobs -- nor has McConaughey, but most of the rest of the male stripper team from the first flick are back for more beefcake bumping and grinding. But there's also plenty of so-called bromance where the men show they love each other -- platonically -- and that's what helps infuse what's otherwise a fairly weakly plotted film with enough charm and humor to help it get by.

The story -- penned by Reid Carolin -- takes place some three years after the events of the first film have concluded. Tatum's character has moved on from stripping to running his own business, although he doesn't make enough to pay his lone employee benefits. When he receives a call that his former stripper boss (McConaughey's character) has died, he goes to the wake, only to realize it was a ruse put on by his former brothers-in-briefs.

Those men (played by Joe Manganiello, Kevin Nash, Matt Bomer and Adam Rodriguez, along with Gabriel Iglesias playing their show emcee) are planning on one last stripper blowout at a national convention of such activities and want Tatum's titular character to join them. He's initially reluctant, but after a hilarious yet talented, impromptu solo dance back in his shop (that again proves the actor really can dance), he decides to rejoin the team. What follows is a road trip to Myrtle Beach, filled with a few stops to introduce additional characters into the story.

Among them is a woman (Jada Pinkett Smith) who runs a pleasure palace for the ladies in some large home, and later a wealthy Southern woman (Andie MacDowell) and her fellow middle-aged lady friends who enjoy the company of said men. Also there is a young photographer (Amber Heard) for a little romance subplot with the protagonist.

While that doesn't really amount to anything tremendous, Carolin gives them -- much like many of the other characters -- enough funny lines to keep the nearly two-hour-long film moving along at a good clip. But it's the male stripper dance "numbers" that often make the film a hoot, and that's simply because everyone involved realizes and thus plays up the overall goofiness of what's transpiring.

Such material certainly isn't for kids -- or many adults for that matter, considering the overt sexual and raunchy content -- but it's so over the top and exaggerated that you can't help but chuckle at the oiled up and stripped down audacity of it all. While I'm certainly nowhere near the target audience demographic for this sort of flick, the fact that it never takes itself seriously and instead has fun with that sort of behavior as well as the "bromance" between its main characters results in "Magic Mike XXL" earning a slight recommendation. It rates as a 5.5 out of 10.

Reviewed June 24, 2015 / Posted July 1, 2015

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