It's hard to believe, but it's been three years since critics fawned over filmmaker Steven Soderbergh's "male entertainer" drama, Magic Mike. While the movie sparked the rejuvenation of Matthew McConaughey's career, one that ultimately landed him in Oscar history after his Best Actor win for Dallas Buyers Club, I was one of the rare voices that recommended audiences to look elsewhere. However, with a continuation of Magic Mike XXL that's sure to bring the ladies to movie theaters in massive numbers, I must admit that this second go-around is by far a more fun and engaging adventure than the original.
The story picks up in real time and Mike's (Channing Tatum) been out of the stripping game for a trio of years, working hard to keep up with production and costs at his custom furniture company. But after a shocking voicemail puts him back in touch with some "Kings of Tampa" friends from his old job, he learns that the remaining guys plan to take their talents to the Myrtle Beach strippers convention for one last money-raining blowout. Torn between whether or not to join them on the trip, Mike decides he can't say "no" to a final adventure with his boys.
First things first, I need to give credit where credit it fully due. As someone who religiously bashed Channing Tatum throughout the early stages of his career, it's about time that I vocalize my new-found respect for him as an actor. Tatum stood toe-to-toe with the Oscar nominated performances of both Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo in last year's Foxcatcher, and he backs it up with a funny and heartwarming reprise in Magic Mike XXL. The sequel succeeds as a wild bachelor-style road trip where hysterical bro-mance banter paves the way for countless unforgettable onscreen moments. Yes, at the end of the day Magic Mike XXL targets lustful female moviegoers, but there are enough hilarious "boys will be boys" moments to keep the after-thought boyfriends and husbands content with the selection as well.
Despite the film's modest ceiling, there aren't many hindrances to Magic Mike XXL's overall quality. Clocking in at a lofty 115 minutes of screen time, the movie is paced surprisingly well. Although there's a noticeable lull in the feature's mid-section that's held together by a cameo from former NFL Hall of Famer, Michael Strahan, like you've never seen him before, it becomes a distant memory once the story picks back up. Outside of that tiny blemish, my only other miscue would be that Magic Mike XXLprovides a somewhat anti-climactic finale. However, these shortcomings are merely bumps in the road for an otherwise effective film.
The franchise's first installment harped on a more dramatic angle while this new inclusion allows the guys to let loose. As a result, we're given a highly entertaining and laugh out loud experience. Channing Tatum's largely developed acting skills lead a collection of odd-ball characters that audiences of all genders will connect with automatically. Magic Mike XXL isn't anything groundbreaking, but it embraces its absurdity and delivers all the necessary ingredients of a fun-filled summer-time title.