Magic Mike XXL

Director: Gregory Jacobs (2015)

The lord of the lap-dance returns in this sequel about sweet-natured strippers on the slide.

Buff, dim and sensitive, ‘Magic’ Mike (Channing Tatum) leaves his day job behind to re-join his dream boys: Ken, Big Dick Richie, Tarzan and Tito. (Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Kevin Nash, Adam Rodriguez).

Matthew McConaughey starred in Magic Mike (2012) but presumably now is too expensive or serious with his post-Oscar win credibility to appear, though his character of Dallas is often referred to.

With abs, pecs, biceps, baby oil and gold lame hot pants, the ageing entertainers fulfil the fantasies of their female fans – while yearning for emotional commitment in their private lives.

Recognising they’re getting too old for the bump and grind game, the boys take a road trip to one last performance to bow out in style.

En route to a stripping convention they lose costumes, a truck and a member, leaving them little time to put a new routine together.

Tatum is engaging and charming, a fine actor and a great dancer and holds the film together. The scene where he rediscovers his love for dance is a joy. The team are likeable and engaging and share a warm chemistry.

But the script isn’t as progressive as it strangely imagines itself to be, reducing the women to dollar-throwing sexual harpies who exist to show how kind, caring and sexy our heroes are.

Though there’s a lot of discussion about how women should be appreciated, celebrated and treated as be queens, one dancer describes his perfect woman as a glass slipper, which in context sounds extremely uncomfortable.

The notable female characters are played with conviction by Jada Pinkett Smith, Amber Heard and Andie MacDowell.

Pinkett Smith in particular gives a barnstorming performance – but in a role which is unnecessary and slows down the film. Written as man, her plot points could easily have been folded into the Andre character (Donald Glover).

With a loose-limbed improvisational feel Magic Mike starts strongly but there’s too long a tease for a disappointingly limp finale. Without a competitive element to the convention there is no conflict and no tension.

Plus the dance routines are underwhelming. Although the final dance is concerned with what the performance means to Mike, the success of the scene for we the audience depends on us believing Tatum is busting his own moves.

Now I don’t believe a dance double is employed, especially as the earlier scenes go to great pains to show us what a prime mover he is.

But not only is Tatum forced into a face-obscuring mask and hat, the awkward framing and rapid editing conspire to sow doubt in our mind as to who is really dancing.

This undermines the dramatic thrust of the scene and the resolution of the story.

Both editing and cinematography are by film-maker Steven Soderbergh, who really ought to know better.

His fingerprints are all over this film: such as the casting of McDowell who played a significant role in his breakout hit Sex, Lies And Videotape (1989). The shot of Mike watching fireworks weakly echoes the ending of Ocean’s Eleven (2001).

As director Jacobs is better known as producer than a director, it’s tempting to think Soderbergh had far more influence over the directorial vision of this film than we’re being told.

Tatum above anyone comes out in credit and manages to hold onto his dignity while wearing nothing but a silver G string which – take my word for it – is far more difficult than it sounds.

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