Movie review: "Magic Mike XXL" has eye candy, but plot is barely there

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Filed under my most surreal screenings of the year is the experience of seeing “Magic Mike XXL” in a theater full of the target audience. “Was that even a movie?” I asked my friend upon leaving.

I mean that in both good ways and bad. “XXL” is a shameless crowd-pleaser built around that ladies-night-out experience. It’s also a pretty lackluster sequel with a plot as barely-there as a male entertainer’s thong.

Where “Magic Mike” was an unexpected hit, “XXL” feels calculated and test-marketed, the same problem that befell this summer’s “Pitch Perfect” sequel. And, like that movie, expect “XXL” to be a hit, because who listens to a stupid movie critic, amirite?

So what’s different? For starters, an interesting change of directors, as the original “Mike” director, Oscar winner Steven Soderbergh, has handed the keys to his longtime assistant director, Gregory Jacobs, although he remains involved in other roles.

Missing altogether is one of the cogs that made the first movie hum, Matthew McConaughey, who practically parodied himself as the scene-stealing Dallas. Also missing is any kind of plot or character development.

OK, it’s not true that there’s no plot. Mike (Channing Tatum) has decided to rejoin the Kings of Tampa for one last run at a Myrtle Beach male stripper convention, which sets up an episodic road trip that has all the flow of an Adam Sandler comedy.

What “XXL” does have is Tatum, an actor who’s got a lethal combination of charm, humor and, yes, abs. Even with lesser material, he’s grown into an actor who is going to make most anything better. He’ll make you laugh. He’ll make you go “wooooo!”

And that last part seems to be the singular goal of “XXL.” The humor is more obvious and low-brow, and the many detours are just kind of head-scratching in the big picture. Stops on the road to Myrtle Beach include a sort-of love interest (Amber Heard) and, more notably, Andie MacDowell as a randy Southern divorcee (she’s this movie’s McConaughey).

That said, I watched a theater full of women (yes, almost entirely) scream themselves silly as if they were at a male strip review in person. It fails as a movie, but you can’t fault “Magic Mike XXL” for giving them what they want.

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

"Magic Mike XXL"

Opens Friday

2 stars out of 4