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First Reviews: ‘Magic Mike XXL’: Pure Pleasure With Lowered Ambitions

First Reviews: 'Magic Mike XXL': Pure Pleasure With Lowered Ambitions

Filmmakers have their own ideas of what movies are about, but once a film hits the screens, the audience has the last word. Steven Soderbergh may have seen “Magic Mike” as an acidic parable about the corruptions of capitalism, but it was the enthusiastic gyrations of Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, et al. that made it a hit. For “Magic Mike XXL,” returning screenwriter Reid Carolin and new(ish) director Gregory Jacobs are happy to throw out the subtext and make with the gyrating, effectively turning it into an unofficial extension of the “Step Up” franchise. (The faint of heart may count themselves lucky it wasn’t shot in 3D.) As they travel to a male strippers’ convention in Myrtle Beach, Mike and the gang — who, of course, get back together — meet a chiseled strip-club crooner played by Donald Glover, who says that his female patrons are seeking a respite from husbands and boyfriends who “don’t even ask them what they want.” “Magic Mike XXL” asks, and then it gives it to them.

For the most part, critics happily accept “XXL’s” lowered ambitions, and its increased quotient of pure entertainment. It is, after all, a movie that reminds just before its big final showdown that there’s nothing at stake — nothing to be won or lost, only pleasure to be passed from entertainer to audience. There’s no dark side of showbiz here, only the joy of amazingly sculpted bodies in motion. (An early scene in which Tatum, who has been retired from dancing for three years, busts out his moves in his metal workshop is like an eroticized take on “Singin’ in the Rain’s” “Make ‘Em Laugh.”) Soderbergh returns as cinematographer and editor — using his customary pseudonyms, Peter Andrews and Mary Ann Bernard — but his longtime second director Jacobs doesn’t build as many layers in the story as his boss would have. Nonetheless, if you see “Magic Mike XXL” with a crowd, chances are their ecstatic reactions will be too loud for you to notice.

Reviews of “Magic XXL”

Angie Han, Slash Film

By the time the road trip is in full swing, the stakes in “Magic Mike XXL” have dwindled down to nothing. In most films, that’d be a serious weakness. In “Magic Mike XXL”, it’s a strength. This film is so pleasantly feather-light, it’d be a shame to bog it down with serious emotion or thought. Instead, “Magic Mike XXL” coasts on charisma, moves, and a naked (pun totally intended) desire to please. While the draw of handsome men in their underwear is obvious, it’s the chemistry between them that makes Mike magic. Think of its as an “Entourage” bro fantasy for the ladies, with all of the camaraderie and none of the machismo. Even their locker room talk is more sweet than crass.

Tim Robey, Telegraph

The bonds between the male performers give it the soap-operatic feel of an XY-chromosome “Steel Magnolias.” As such, it may be either the gayest straight film ever made, or the straightest gay one. And it doesn’t care either way. When the team — now simply dubbed “Resurrection” — get on stage to strut their stuff, they do so with equal, backslapping oomph whether it’s a drag-revue bar, where they’re queening it up with Carmen Miranda-style fruit hats, or in the nominally hetero context of the all-clapping, all-screaming, all-female finale. The name of the game, the gold somewhere over their rainbow, is a “tsunami of dollar bills.”

Eric Kohn, Indiewire

Persistently lighthearted but never less than lively entertainment, “Magic Mike XXL” swaps the meaty conflicts of the first movie — Mike’s showdowns with the strip club entrepreneur memorably embodied by Matthew McConaughey, Mike’s own questionable attempts to take an aimless teenager under his wing — for a breezy musical road trip comedy. The thin story unfolds as a series of lengthy sequences in which the boys either hang out or show off their skills to great effect. Carried along by their charisma and a vivacious sense of motion sure to please Busby Berkeley acolytes and those seeking cheap thrills of the flesh alike, “Magic Mike XXL” is essentially a loose but well-honed add-on pack.

Jordan Hoffman, Mashable

The first film was surprising in its focus on economic angst. “Magic Mike XXL” is set in the real world, too, but delivers more of that original promise: You want the hottest male strippers, you got ’em. While shot and edited by Soderbergh, the director this time is his former assistant Gregory Jacobs. It’s indicative of the entire “one notch down” approach. “Magic Mike XXL” is an exploitation film in the best possible sense — the plot is just an excuse to get (most of) the band back together and out on the road.

Emma Simmonds, The List

This sequel might take time to hit its stride but it’s so much more than knee-trembling entertainment. What could have been a simple cash-in is a charming “bromantic” comedy – elegantly shot, sensitive to character – with the troupe learning to love their status as male entertainers by ditching the cheese and getting creative, developing routines that are true to who they are. These laid-back ladies’ men manage to be both blokey and vulnerable; in their geniality, old-fashioned manners and tendency to put women on a pedestal they’re a welcome antidote to the obnoxious all-male ensembles that have become a mainstay of commercial comedy (Entourage being the latest offender). Their idiosyncrasies, talents and affection for each other are positioned at the fore, alongside their fears, regrets and insecurities.

Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter

At least as much as in the original, what makes “XXL” go down so enjoyably is that these guys are just out to please; their idea is to make all the ladies in their audiences feel special and catered to, that it’s all about them and not about the male ego. Naturally, the ultra-buff men know what they’ve got and flaunt it, but in a self-consciously fun way, not as an expression of hubris or dominance. The attitude is that we all know why we’re here and let’s have a good time; this way, all the characters get what they want — or at least what they need — and that includes the movie audience.

Danielle Riendeau, Polygon

While watching, I constantly thought “This is what Entourage could be like, if it were about likable people.” There’s a positive energy flowing throughout the movie, building from scene to scene until the explosive finale. I couldn’t help but dance in my seat during some of the more athletic dance numbers, nor could I suppress a cheer at the many-splendored denouement dance number.

Randy Myers, San Jose Mercury News

What’s particularly energizing about “Magic Mike XXL” is how it exuberantly celebrates sexuality, and does so unabashedly and unapologetically. It’s something you don’t often see in mainstream films. Equally refreshing is how many scenes of the guys stripping feature women of all shapes and sizes getting in on the action. Everyone is invited to have a good time with “Magic Mike XXL.” While its sexy ways will attract anyone attracted to guys with hot bodies, there’s something more than liberating going on here — even if it’s being said with a wink and a whole lot of naked flesh.

Tim Grierson, Screen Daily

Instead of a clear-eyed fable about an immature manchild who must learn to grow up — spiced with a cautionary tale (in the form of The Kid) about the dangers of being seduced by a hedonistic lifestyle — “XXL” is a road movie mixed with the let’s-put-on-one-last-big-show dance film. “XXL” lacks the novel milieu that made “Magic Mike” such a treat, Soderbergh finding fresh terrain to speak to old issues of adulthood, temptation and the sting of economic hard times. Those elements are still somewhat at play in “XXL,” but they’re not as sharply executed, the modest rewards more in the margins as Mike tries to reconnect with his old pals while encountering new friends and former flames along the way.

Peter Debruge, Variety

One needn’t have spent much time on dating sites to know that guys have a tendency to exaggerate where size is concerned, so fans of Warner Bros.’ 2012 striptease sleeper should set their expectations accordingly over “Magic Mike XXL.” Meanwhile, someone in the studio’s marketing department deserves a raise for so enticingly fluffing the title of a sequel that sheds the newbie (Alex Pettyfer), the emcee (Matthew McConaughey) and nearly all traces of plot, yielding an encore whose putative selling point is getting to know the fellas who shook their stuff in the next-to-buff. Trading the “A Star Is Born” angle for a rambling road-trip format, “Magic Mike XXL” offers creative dance numbers for demos underserved by the original — post-menopausal divorcees, women of color and, in one odd scene, gay fans open to seeing these hunks in drag — but seems unlikely to measure up to its predecessor’s $113 million score.

Stella Papamichael, Digital Spy

In some ways “Magic Mike XXL” is the film that many feared the original might be (and wasn’t), emphasizing pelvic gyrations over narrative movement. Channing Tatum still packs a bagful of charm, along with his merry band of male strippers (minus Matthew McConaughey), but there is little point to the big reunion that sees them all driving down to South Carolina, except to stuff as many dollar bills in their pants as they can.

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