Magic Mike XXL, Channing Tatum And The Kings Of Tampa Up For One Last Grind – A Review


Double XL sequel offers pelvic thrusts and frozen yogurt
The Magic men available at are the extra, EXTRA large sequel that men have been dreading ever since their wives and girlfriends had their fifty shades of whatever. But guys need not be scared of rock-hard abs and pectorals; if anything they should applaud the athleticism on display when it comes to male stripping.

Now hear me out. Guys have no problems marveling at other men chasing down loose balls or slapping each other on the ass after making a spectacular play. But that’s different. That’s sports. Alright. Both are commercial enterprises, though, it’s just that one entertainer gets paid in singles while the other gets a weekly check worth thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars (that’s more than a dozen lap dances, easy). Probably not enough of an argument to sway the general male consensus. Those guys that can keep an open mind and go in understanding that this movie is skewed to females first may actually take something away from a story that does its best to celebrate women.

Three years after Magic Mike made quite the sizable impression during Fourth of July weekend, the Kings of Tampa are back. There’s a reason why the title added two x’s and not just one. Super-sized dance numbers. The sequel is all about promoting a fun atmosphere.

Hire our guys for a road trip traveling from Florida to Myrtle Beach for a–wait for it–
stripper convention.

Channing Tatum’s Mike Lane has been out of the game trying to keep his small furniture business afloat. Then he gets a call from his past and he’s back in the saddle. (Cue Ginuwine’s “Pony”.)

Sporting a one-last-ride theme, the cadre of male strippers, which also includes Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello), Barbie’s main squeeze Ken (Matt Bomer), Tito (Adam Rodriguez), who dreams of opening his own Frozen Yogurt food truck, and Tarzan (Kevin Nash), takes to the road with Tobias (funny man Gabriel Iglesias) as their MC/driver. With no central conflict, the narrative rides on the coattails–
no, thongs is more appropriate–and the misadventures they have along the way.

There is no rival stripping group they have to worry about; the convention is not about bragging rights or a cash prize. The journey allows for little arcs and the individual characters to shine, something that happens rarely in summer blockbusters. The choreography of the dances is impressive, but just as impressive is getting to spend time with the guys with their clothes on.

Pigeonholed on the basis of its subject matter, the stripping is just a catalyst to play to the desires of women. Doused in dollar bills that are seemingly left on the dance floor, the Kings of Tampa are there to make the women feel desirable.

The stripper mystique is not only sexual fantasy. Strippers fulfill an emotional longing for those ladies who feel unimportant. Enter Donald Glover as Andre. His act sees him resort to improv lyricism to freestyle rap, lifting the spirits of the woman he’s selected to serenade, as he slowly works his way down into her lap. It’s a loving freestyle about beauty and being appreciated.

While male strippers paying attention to women may come across as an act, the interactions the guys in this place have on the road, outside of a club atmosphere, where they meet a group of bored Savannah housewives (led by Andie MacDowell) and talk to them as human beings–not objects.

Make them feel at ease.
(before performing fake simulated sexual acts)
Less about obtaining that cherished female gaze.
More about respecting the female form.

Steven Soderbergh, who occupied the director’s chair for Magic Mike, steps away, but he might as well receive co-director credit; he was on-set handling cinematography and served as editor. Gregory Jacobs, his long-time assistant director, takes the spotlight this time. His previous credits include Criminal (the American remake of the Argentinian con artist drama Nine Queens) and Wind Chill, a stranded in the middle of nowhere ghost story starring Emily Blunt.

Jacobs’s style doesn’t overplay the visuals as a means of distraction. Soderbergh’s photography and expertise in post-production help to elevate and look and mood of certain scenes. The stark darkness of when Mike has a meet-cute moment with Zoe (Amber Heard), an aspiring photographer, on a beach is noticeable, like a classy art film, as is the use of reds and blues when the Kings venture to Savannah.

It is in sultry Georgia where the best surprise is revealed. Jada Pinkett Smith. She plays Rome, the proprietor of Domina, a stripping establishment that has its own sets of rules when it comes to how her employees service the clientele. And her skills as an MC are perfect in promoting hype and sensuality. Both she and Tatum are neck and neck in vying for movie MVP, but I give the slight edge to Smith on account that her performance is more of a breakthrough. Smith has been away from the game for a while that’s it’s easy to forget that she’s quite the physical actor. I like this side of Smith and think her performance is one where if her career starts to take off we can look back and say this was the role that took her places. Much like what happened to Matthew McConaughey when he played Dallas in Magic Mike.

Joe Manganiello is also hard to not notice. The guy is built like a brick wall. But there’s something missing in his life. The One. Being labeled Big Dick is not all that it’s cracked up to be. It becomes a problem in finding a woman that can handle such an erected structure so he can go all the way. Allusions to Ritchie’s massive manhood being Cinderella’s glass slipper are lobbied and it is a fitting descriptor. He also has the highlight dance, in a mini-mart where the audience is an uninterested cashier.

For a record-setting summer that has banked its success on superheroes and nostalgia (welcome back to Jurassic Park), it’s remarkable that Magic Mike XXL is so unabashedly entertaining. It may be lighter in tone than Soderbergh’s original (which was inspired by Tatum’s brief career as a male stripper), but the change helps to push the notion that women matter. They should be called queens, as Rome identifies them. The message of celebrating women and their wants and desires is hidden in plain view, just crane your neck around the grinding and the pelvic thrusts and you’ll see.

Director: Gregory Jacobs
Writer(s): Reid Carolin, based on characters created by Reid Carolin
Notable Cast: Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer Kevin Nash, Adam Rodriguez, Gabriel Iglesias, Jada Pinkett Smith, Amber Heard, Donald Glover, Andie MacDowell

Tags: , , , ,