Magic Mike XXL

“Ma­gic Mike XXL” might be harder to swal­low if it wer­en’t the se­quel to one of Steven Soder­bergh’s best films.

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“Ma­gic Mike XXL” might be harder to swal­low if it wer­en’t the se­quel to one of Steven Soder­bergh’s best films. Des­pite the dir­ect­or’s ped­i­gree, many would-be view­ers were skep­tic­al about his 2012 strip show, un­aware they’d be get­ting le­git art­ful cinema in an arena beg­ging for shal­low de­pic­tions. In a way, Soder­bergh took the heat off Gregory Jac­obs, his dir­ect­ori­al suc­cessor who takes the same ma­ter­i­al and lets it gyr­ate and fly, turn­ing “Ma­gic Mike XXL” in­to a com­par­at­ively, yet pleas­ur­ably, frothy second act.

Get­ting right down to busi­ness, re­turn­ing screen­writer Re­id Car­olin con­veni­ently dis­cards two ma­jor char­ac­ters from the first film, Dal­las (Mat­thew Mc­Con­naughey) and Adam (Alex Petty­fer), in a single dia­logue ex­change, ex­plain­ing they’ve skipped town for over­seas gigs. That leaves re­main­ing studs Ken (Matt Bomer), Rich­ie (Joe Man­gani­ello), Tar­z­an (Kev­in Nash), and Tito (Adam Rodrig­uez) as shapely sol­diers without a gen­er­al. Enter Mike (Chan­ning Tatum), who’s been try­ing to live a quiet (and clothed) life since the events in “Ma­gic Mike,” but is itch­ing to get back in the game.

Need­less to say, he does, and “Ma­gic Mike XXL” largely throws cau­tion to the wind as it morphs in­to a one-last-ride road movie, with the crew’s fi­nal des­tin­a­tion be­ing a strip­per expo in Myrtle Beach. Along the way, Mike and com­pany swing by a drag bar (partly ac­know­ledging that this fran­chise is equally ap­peal­ing to gay men and wo­men), have wild beach ad­ven­tures and spend one fate­ful night at the home of Zoe (Am­ber Heard), whose moth­er (An­die Mac­Dow­ell) and her friends are em­powered des­pite the raw hands of­ten dealt to older wo­men in mod­ern so­ci­ety.

It would be hy­per­bole to call “Ma­gic Mike XXL” a fem­in­ist film, since, at the end of the day, everything here is about bol­ster­ing male ego, but it’s sur­pris­ing how well the movie re­gards and reveres fe­males in gen­er­al. From the more ma­ture wo­men who are promp­ted not to ac­cept neg­lect to the cus­tom­ers a South­ern belle named Rome (Jada Pinkett-Smith) caters to in her private club, this se­quel is hy­per keen to the fem­in­ine psyche. In oth­er words, it re­spects its audi­ence.

Ma­gic Mike XXL

Two-and-half reels out of four
Now play­ing at area theat­ers

Re­com­men­ded Rent­al

Wo­man in Gold

Avail­able Ju­ly 7

Though hardly a movie im­mune to pre­dict­able plot twists and emo­tion­al ma­nip­u­la­tion, “Wo­man in Gold” brings in­to fo­cus the sub­ject be­hind Gust­av Klimt’s most fam­ous por­trait, and more im­port­antly, her niece (Helen Mir­ren), who’s try­ing to re­claim the paint­ing from the Aus­tri­an gov­ern­ment years after its wrong­ful theft by the Nazis. The film calls in­to ques­tion the value and power of cu­tur­al ar­ti­facts as sym­bols, and its gif­ted cost­ars in­clude Max Irons and of “Orphan Blacks” fame Ta­tiana Maslany. 

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