It's delirious, infectious fun, even for viewers without a predilection for gorgeous men. Magic Mike XXL offers all of the action and drama one could possibly want from a summer blockbuster sequel, and continues what one hopes will be an ongoing franchise, even as it gets the gang back together for a final blowout appearance at a Myrtle Beach convention. It's less mired in character drama than its predecessor, giving itself up to greater spectacle, a more fantastic perspective on its dance sequences, and an engaging sense of forward motion.
Hot damn, Magic Mike XXL is first and foremost a quest. I marveled in my seat when I realized that the makeup of the typical Dungeons & Dragons adventure party could be flawlessly mapped onto Mike and his fellow male entertainers: Ken (Matt Bomer)'s status as a level 3 Reiki healer clearly marks him as the party's cleric, but there's a rogue, a fighter, a bard, and a wizard as well. (In one of the movie's sweetest sequences, a character tries some new moves on an unsmiling convenience store cashier, leveling up before our very eyes.) It's not facile to suggest that it's a summer action movie with dance sequences instead of explosions, though the franchise sequel it most resembles is Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's 13; like that movie it gives itself over to its fantasy elements so uninhibitedly that parts of it feel beamed in from another planet. (Though Gregory Jacobs takes the directorial reins for MMXXL, original director Soderbergh's fingerprints as cinematographer and editor are all over the movie, from a hilarious perspective of a car wreck from the passenger's seat to a gorgeous traveling shot of the Myrtle Beach surf, the tide line beautifully bisecting the frame.)
Hollywood's summer spectacle has been largely overtaken by sequels that present mounting, ever-graver threats to the world, only surmountable by increasingly cookie-cutter action heroes. By comparison, Magic Mike XXL's action men are refreshingly down to earth (which makes their choreographed, non-CGI moves all the more affecting), and yet the movie feels as explosive and action-packed as any other movie Hollywood's put out. The world doesn't hang in the balance, but the movie finds all the dramatic heft it needs in our heroes' simply stated quest: to restore a woman's smile. And watching them pull it off is an absolute thrill.