By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Thongs, Magic Mike XXL has got plenty of.
The problem is that this sequel comes up short in just about every other department.
Magic Mike XXL is the follow-up to the 2012 hit, Magic Mike, a dreary dramedy about naked ambition among struggling male strippers.
As before, the plot, if you can call it that, doesn’t really matter –- to the audience, to the makers, or to the movie itself.
What matters is the kind of eye candy represented by buff actors in a vehicle designed for girls’-night-out gawking.
XXL takes place three years after the original, when the title character, reprised by Channing Tatum -– one of the producers (again) and whose pre-movie-stardom experience as a teenage stripper inspired the first film –- joins his dancing pals, including Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, Adam Rodriguez, and Kevin Nash, on their way to Myrtle Beach, SC, for a stripper convention.
So, yes, this is a road trip lark mixed with a Mickey-and-Judy-let’s-put-on-a-show-and-precious-little-in-the-way-of-clothing revue.
Along the way, the men encounter women (they’re the ones not gyrating) including Jada Pinkett Smith, Andie MacDowell, Amber Heard, and Elizabeth Banks.
Gregory Jacobs (Criminal, Wind Chill) takes over the reins for the sequel from the original film’s director, prolific veteran Steven Soderbergh, whom Jacobs has served as an assistant director on several projects and who served on the sequel as the cinematographer and a producer.
To say that XXL misses Soderbergh’s directorial touch is to understate the case, even though the original was no great shakes on any level.
But what the follow-up misses even more is the screen presence of Matthew McConaughey, who was the only member of the original cast with true command and a sense of comedy, and who acted everyone else right off the screen.
With the absence of humor or tension, what we’re left with are the bump-and-grind dance numbers, which are frequent enough to make obvious the “less story, more dancing” mandate this time out.
But any thoughts of character development are just plain laughable. Reid Carolin’s script isn’t just thin, it’s anorexic.
And while allowing this particular ensemble to improvise dance moves may make sense, allowing them to improvise dialogue is a recipe for thespian disaster, which they are quick to demonstrate.
So we’ll strip down to 1½ stars out of 4. You can look, but don’t expect to be touched: Magic Mike XXL is extra, extra lame.