HUB Movie Review: Magic Mike XXl

Story posted October 7, 2015 in News, CommRadio by Hunter Eitel

For the past few weeks, I’ve been almost religiously watching sequels. Avengers: Age of Ultron, Pitch Perfect 2, Ted 2, you get the gist. But of all of the sequels the HUB-Robeson center could have been playing last week, they decided to choose one that would create one of the most awkward movie going experiences of my life. I am speaking of Magic Mike XXL, the sequel to the 2012’s surprise hit, Magic Mike.

The film (For those who don’t know) is about “male entertainers,” as they call themselves in the film, going to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for a large convention for those also in their field of work.

The summary sounds brief, but that’s really all you need to know. With this kind of movie, there is one specific audience: those men and women who want to see bulky men take off their shirts and pants and get down with the boogie. And while that audience would give the movie ten stars for Channing Tatum’s nipples alone, that’s not going to happen here.

But, while the film is definitely short on plot, and features uneven character development, odd tonal shifts, and unnecessary characters, I would be lying to you if I said I was not entertained by Magic Mike XXL. The film surprised me in several departments, from its acting, to its strong humor, and even the camera work.

Let’s get the negatives out of the way first though. As said, the film’s plot is just an excuse to get these attractive guys in a bus to go to a stripper convention, that’s all it is. The writers try to incorporate issues Mike (Channing Tatum) is having with his new business and his personal life, but it never comes to fruition. It just feels like a way for the movie to have some form of narrative that doesn’t involve stripping. And when this storyline is on screen, it actually cuts into the spectacle so many people are watching this movie for. The stripping scenes are few and far between, making the movie feel almost pointless (With this being a sequel, pointless is an accurate adjective for this movie).

The story also shoehorns in characters that have no reason being in this movie, really two of them: Jada Pinkett Smith’s Rome and Amber Heard’s Zoe. Both actresses do a fine job (We’ll get to that later), but both of their characters are points where the movie slows down to an almost unbearable degree. Zoe’s “romance” with Mike is about as forced as the romance in 50 Shades of Grey, another film fueled by sexual desire. Both characters share a good 15 minutes of screen-time with zero chemistry whatsoever, and we’re supposed to buy that they like each other. Tatum and Heard aren’t to blame for this, since Reid Carolin helmed the script and thought he was writing decent romantic dialogue, which he was not. Then there’s Smith’s character Rome, whose purpose in the story is that she runs a strip “castle” that has stripping set pieces by Michael Strahan (Who has two lines of dialogue) and Donald Glover.

Done with the negatives, now for those positives I mentioned earlier. The entire cast, aside from the romance, have great chemistry with each other. Channing Tatum once again proves he is a good actor and not just some good looking schmuck. But the real stand out is Joe Manganiello as “Big Dick” Richie. Manganiello has some of the funniest lines in the whole movie, always carrying a charisma that makes me wish he was in more movies. The rest of the cast has some great one-liners; even former WWE star Kevin Nash has a few good quips here and there. The humor caught me off guard and made for a far more enjoyable experience than I was expecting.

But the most surprising aspect to Magic Mike XXL was the camerawork. There are several moments in this movie where long flowing takes are utilized to an impressive degree. Even the stripping scenes, while not why I came to the movie, were well filmed and choreographed in a way where I still don’t know how the writer came up with them. The cinematography by Steven Soderbergh and handling of scenes by director Gregory Jacobs was hands down the best part of Magic Mike XXL and helped keep me engaged throughout its far too long 115 minute runtime.
Magic Mike XXL is not a great movie, I don’t even know if it’s a good movie, but it’s certainly an entertaining one, featuring strong performances by a surprisingly talented cast some laugh out loud moments and great camerawork that help the film almost overcome its many narrative flaws and length. It may be a forced sequel, but it’s one of the few forced sequels that many will actually enjoy watching.

Hunter Eitel is a freshman majoring in print journalism. To reach him, contact him at hbe5018@psu.edu.