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MAGIC MIKE XXL
If 2012 was the year of Channing Tatum with breakout performances in the comedic 21 Jump Street and the dramatic Magic Mike, then the last half of 2014 and first half of 2015 could be considered the year of Channing Tatum sequels. It started with 22 Jump Street and is happening now with Magic Mike XXL.
Steven Soderbergh steps away from the directorial reins of the film, replacing in this installment by Gregory Jacobs (Wind Chill), who has served as first or second assistant director on Soderbergh films since King of the Hill. Soderbergh did serve as Director of Photography and is one of the Executive Producers on the film, and Reid Carolin, who wrote the screenplay for the first film, contributes a script for this one. Set three years after Mike (Tatum) decided to leave stripping behind, he still finds himself with an occasional urge to dance. But when his friends the Kings of Tampa offer him a last chance to dance at a convention in South Carolina, he can't help but put on the thong and waggle the dong.
There is one notable omission from the returning characters, and it's that of Dallas (Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club), the owner of the club in the first film. Dallas didn't come back to see Mike because, well, even the story doesn't really care why. The main reason you're here for Magic Mike XXL in the first place is to see the dancing beefcake, and it's set against the backdrop of a road movie from Florida to South Carolina. The film even casts returning cast member Tobias (Gabriel Iglesias) out of the way early into the first act also, the victim of a fluke concussion of some sort. So we get the dancers, each with their own individual moments to shine over the course of the movie.
Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of this shift in tone is Joe Manganiello (True Blood), who plays Big Dick Richie. A dance he does serves as a blossoming of his character, one of increased confidence over the course of the movie. The subplot of Big Dick is a welcome surprise.
As is the case with a lot of road movies, Magic Mike XXL also looks at the various characters the group encounters along the way. The Kings go to a club (which is more of a house) where the owner, a woman named Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith, Reign Over Me) serves as a touchstone for Mike. If Mike is the Rocky Balboa of male stripping, Rome is Apollo Creed in Rocky III. Her reputation proceeds her, even if we don't know it, and her klout is impressive. The Kings eventually leave and bring Andre (Donald Glover, Community) with them. The inclusion of Glover is a nice thought, even if its superfluous to the movie as a whole.
Two other inclusions in the film are Andie MacDowell (Groundhog Day) and Amber Heard (The Rum Diary). The former plays Nancy Davidson, an affluent yet unsatisfied South Carolina housewife, the latter plays Nancy's daughter Zoe. Heard serves the Cody Horn role as in the first film, almost down to the initial appearance. But Heard and Tatum only have a moment or two of interaction before getting to the nitty gritty in the film, and the chemistry between the two is not up to the standard Horn and Tatum had in the first.
I have little qualm over Channing Tatum as an actor and/or box office draw in 2012 or 2015. However, I would note that where 22 Jump Street had a keen sense of self-awareness as the movie went on, Magic Mike XXL is just trying to tick off the requisite storytelling boxes. Even the style, be it visual, or choreographed, is just sort of there, not really invigorating anything in the story or the Magic Mike mythology, if you will, even if former football player Michael Strahan is dancing. Magic Mike XXL is just 22 Jump Street without the strength to trying anything new, which is sad, really.The Blu-ray:
Warner trots Magic Mike XXL out on Blu-ray with an AVC encoded 2.40:1 widescreen presentation, and the results are predictably excellent as you'd expect with Soderbergh shooting the film. Image detail is ample in the foreground and background, black levels in the film are deep and provide a fine contrast to the action. Colors are reproduced accurately with no saturation issues to speak of. Haloing and edge enhancement is at a minimum, and regardless of the quality of the film, it is a beautiful transfer.The Sound:
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless, and it is just as up to the challenge as the transfer is. Low end fidelity is ample from the opening scenes, channel panning is present and effective, directional effects a little less so but are still decent. Dialogue is consistentExtras:
"The Moves of Magic Mike XXL" (8:35) look at the dancing in the film, while an extended dance sequence by one of the secondary characters in the film (3:42) follows. A piece on filming in Georgia (2:09) completes things, along with an Ultraviolet copy of the film to go with standard definition and Blu-ray discs.Final Thoughts:
Magic Mike XXL banks on the charm and allure of its cinematic predecessor and gives fans of the first film little reason to enjoy the second. Technically, it's a nice looking and sounding disc, but if you're looking for Channing Tatum's abs in a good movie, this doesn't do it. If you like new faces in some of the roles vacated by the first film's stars then great, otherwise, to quote my wife who I think sums it up perfectly, "It's like Bring It On, but for stripping."