Unless you’re fascinated by the subject of pubic grooming, the repartee coursing through Magic Mike XXL won’t excite you. But you’re not here for the boyfriend experience—you want another kind of excitement. Tatum and company leave for “one last ride,” with bookings for their strip-revue set all up the coast. That’s how you experience the movie, too: You don’t watch it, you ride it.
The first Mike harbored sociopolitical concerns beneath its tearaway jeans (it was Shampoo for the iPhone set.) This one’s pure exploitation, like the lascivious cheerleader movies of the 1970s. In that tradition, it sends knockouts out on a narrative as thin as their T-shirts—one designed to get them to locations where they’re loath to wear clothes.
No cheer designed for football games works at a frat party. By that principle, the manner of male stripping varies by location: A drag bar allows for loose-limbed slides, while a Southern mansion affords a chance to hone table manners. But it’s the house of Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith)—catering exclusively to black female patrons—that elevates the flippant fun into something hotter.
Rome’s boys posit stripping as a confluence of sex and art: They’re audience-pleasers. When you see the quietly impressionistic way cinematographer Steven Soderbergh shoots those dances—screaming women lining the back of the frame, dollar bills falling from outstretched arms like leaves from an autumn tree, and soft overhead lights melting the onlooking bodies together, all while men grind underneath—you’ll confuse those two words yourself. Then you’ll want to ride again.
MAGIC MIKE XXL. RATED R. NOW PLAYING EVERYWHERE.