Bow… bow, wow, wow. When Genuwine’s Pony kicks in you know you’re watching Magic Mike. Sometimes certain songs coupled with certain scenes elevate an entire film and glue it firmly to our memories. Such was the case three years ago.
Directed by Steven Soderburgh at the time in almost a documentary style, Magic Mike was a funny old beast. It was less about stripping and more male bonding; how these guys actually live and are part of a tribe. Like The Wrestler with Mickey Rourke but with more nudity. (Actually, scratch that, they’ve both got naked guys aplenty.) It focused on character too; so if it were mere titillation we wouldn’t have this sequel now.
This time round Soderburgh’s long time assistant director, Gregory Jacobs, steps up to direct. He’s a man who has worked extensively with Soderburgh in the past and knows the style and tone of the first movie. Whilst not quite matching the first he does a passable job with this sequel.
So… why would a straight guy go to see Magic Mike, surely it’s one for the ladies? Well, yes, there’s male nudity in abundance but I’d argue this is a film that, in a manner of speaking, has more to offer the male market. Bear (or bare, geddit?) with me here whilst I state my case. First, the plot.
Mike has left the life of stripping behind to pursue his passion of furniture design. He’s got his girl, it’s all rosy. However, three years later things don’t work out as he plans and he gets a call from the old gang as they pass through town on their way to a stripper convention (Yes, it’s a real thing. Tatum actually attended one in his former life before acting.)
With only a little – rather convenient – persuasion from Genuwine’s Pony on the radio in his workshop (in a scene which riffs on Flashdance) he bundles in with the fellas for a road trip and one last stripping hurrah. They meet various characters along the way, including Jada Pinkett Smith’s stripper Madam Rome (Mike’s mentor) and Andie Macdowell’s lonely housewife Nancy, which all add something.
That said, there’s things missing, specifically characters. Gone is Dallas (Matthew McConaughey) crooning ‘ladies of Tampa’ and stealing scenes. He leaves a rather large hole which the rest of the cast try to fill with varying degrees of success. Gone is Adam ‘The Kid’ (Alex Pettyfer), gone is Mike’s love interest Brooke (Cody Horn), replaced rather half-heartedly with quirky and nomadic Zoe (Amber Heard Depp); who does what she can but has very little to work with. However, former players do step up, particularly Joe Manganiello’s Big Dick Ritchie, who gets the funniest – and ballsiest – scene of the movie.
Stripping scenes aside, the movie itself, in its quieter moments, seems at pains to show these guys as more than strippers. They’ve got hopes and dreams like the rest of us and they’re just as vulnerable, if not more so. There’s one scene where two characters talk about how they’re modern-day healers for women. Weirdly, it’s quite touching and all rather spiritual.
In parts it does drag a little, but overall it’s a pretty solid follow-up and doesn’t retread too much old ground. It feels like a good way to end, too. If we see a Magic Mike 3 in a few years I can safely say it’ll tank at the box office as there’s really nowhere else to take these characters. I think the actors knew that as they looked like there were having so much fun here and really went for it.
So… It’s a good laugh, fits the tone of the first and is surprisingly sensitive in places where it touches on the male bonding aspect and sense of belonging. But let’s leave it there eh? Mike’s stripping days are done. Time he hung up that thong for good.