If you vibed with the naked-dude testosterone of Magic Mike three years ago, the XXL sequel will go down easy. Maybe easier, since screenwriter Reid Carolin lightens up on the first film’s cautionary moralizing. Instead, we get bracing bro banter, pectoral flexing and the whole gang going wild on Molly. Good times.
Channing Tatum, who stripped for a living in his younger years, is back as Mike, and damn, that dude can dance. He can act, too (check Foxcatcher). For the past few years, Mike has kept his clothes on to focus on his Florida furniture-design business. He’s taking a break to reteam with the Kings of Tampa (Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Kevin Nash, Adam Rodriguez) for “one last ride” at the stripper convention in South Carolina.
The movie is just a rambling, loosey-goosey road trip, with Bomer and Manganiello getting extra time to shine. It feels like filler when Mike hooks up with a bisexual stripper (Amber Heard) who’s luckily in a dude phase, and an old flame (Jada Pinkett Smith), now running her own private strip club, where customers — she calls them queens — can buy a lap dance from (yes, Kelly Ripa, it’s him) Michael Strahan.
Which brings us to a sore point: Who’s not back? The great Steven Soderbergh has left the directing to his frequent colleague Gregory Jacobs, but he continues as producer and cinematographer. That, grudgingly, we can deal with. But the absence of a scene-stealing Matthew McConaughey as Dallas, the Kings’ preening MC, hurts like hell. Magic Mike XXL delivers rowdy, raunchy fun, but without McConaughey, it’s a long way from “awright, awright, awright.”