“We’re male entertainers now; not strippers” say the boys in Kings of Tampa, getting ready for their last blow-out performance at the Strippers Convention on Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. Magic Mike (Tatum) had left the group to fulfill his dream of making furniture, but when he gets a message out of the blue that causes him great concern, he hooks up with them and is easily persuaded to rejoin them on this last excursion. It takes them a while to get there with some mishaps along the way, but various women from their past—Rome (Jada Pinkett-Smith), Zoe (Amber Heard), and Paris (Elizabeth Banks)—give them a generous hand, and they make it to their destination with a new show and emcee.
The aims of this sexy romp of a movie are clearly to entertain—as is claimed. The men in the Kings of Tampa, as well as those in Rome’s establishment where they stopped along the way, deliver amazing performances in song and dance that even women in the theater screening audience could squeal for heartily. But the writer (Reid Carolin) and director (Gregory Jacobs) add a little more substance to the brew in empathic looks at male bonding and women’s need for a listening ear and romance.
In males, there seems to be a bottom line of trust—although it is repeatedly tested—along with the competition and territorial struggles. In this group, there is a bit of difficulty reintegrating Mike into the group after three years and a certain amount of resentment about his finding his niche, while most of the others are in some kind of limbo. But no matter what the conflict, how much hurt is dished out, or how much they argue, the bottom line of love and respect always brings them back together.
I must confess I have never been in a male strip club and did not see the original Magic Mike; but I was impressed in seeing the performances in Magic Mike XXL show understanding for the things many women are missing in their relationships with men. Obviously, the focus is on the men and their prowess, but the women they are attending to, however briefly, are not just passive props. First of all, they ask the women directly what they want. Then they include them in their act in such a way the two become a unit; it’s not always easy to tell—if you didn’t already know—who is doing what. (We’ll ignore for the moment that these performances are primarily to show off the men’s acrobatics and gymnastics.) But there is the illusion of shared control.
Steven Soderbergh, the director of the previous Magic Mike film, takes the role of cinematographer this time, which is an interesting transition, and he is very good. He and the director of XXL, Gregory Jacobs, have collaborated on many productions, so the change is seamless. Reid Carolin, the writer for both productions inserted new plot turns and the choreography was turned up for XXL. In an interview, Joe Manganiello credits two of the actors, Alison Faulk and Teresa Espinosa, who were in both productions, with dance move assistance.
It’s expected that Magic Mike XXL will be just as popular as its predecessor, so there is lots of excitement around the opening of this film.