Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike was, let’s be honest, a surprise hit. Whilst the auteur has tackled many subjects, a dramedy about the lives of male strippers seemed odd when written down. However, all fears were mislaid and the film turned out to be a special, oiled-up, gyrating nugget. Sadly, if only the same could be said of Magic Mike XXL, a film that feels less like a continuation of Channing Tatum’s titular character and more like the next chapter in the Step-Up franchise.
Mike is now living his dream working for himself, but all is not right in magic’s kingdom and when the opportunity arises for him to re-join his old mates in the stripper game, he grabs it with both hands. With a number of stars from the first having been written unceremoniously out of the flick, XXL relies on us caring about everyone else. So to make amends Mike’s merry troupe have had to have their characters fleshed out. And by that we mean they’ve been squeezed into little parcels each labelled with a different stereotype. A fact the film at least acknowledges as Joe Manganiello’s Big Dick Richie runs through a roll call of his fellow dancer’s tropes.
XXL starts off well but quickly loses its way when we start introducing new characters into the mix. Frist there’s Amber Heard’s insufferable Zoe; a character so hip that you wonder if she ever gets lost having to look down her nose at everyone so much. Then there’s Jada Pinkett-Smith as Rome, a former employer of Mike, and her protégé Andre (Donald Glover). Neither seeming to have a particular character trait outside of being black and supporting our beefcake white knight. It’s as problematic as it sounds.
Magic Mike, whilst light on female characters, at least gave us Brooke (Cody Horn) who challenged Mike and his universe to some extent. Notable by her absence, XXL simply has all its women gagging for a slab of man meat. Yes, we should be applauding the fact that women own their sexuality, but in XXL, sexuality is all they have. One only needs to look at the resolution of Zoe’s sub-plot, for what it is, where it’s established she just needs to have a willy wagged in her face to make her happy. And of a fashion that’s how XXL treats its audience. Sit back and prepare to be waggled at.