You can’t tease everyone.
Unfortunately, the hotly anticipated stripper sequel “Magic Mike XXL” tries to do just that, resulting in a Bud Light version of Steven Soderbergh’s original, surprise-hit home brew. By trying to appeal to young women, middle-aged moms, gay men and spring-break bros at the same time, the movie spreads itself too thin, filling time better spent on manly moves with too much talk and obvious demographic pandering.
Still, it’s pointless to resist the five-pointed charisma bomb of fancy-footed Mike Lane (Channing Tatum) and his crew of rock-hard rippling rakes (Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, Adam Rodriguez and Kevin Nash). Once they get rolling, you barely notice Matthew McConaughey’s absence.
Three years after leaving the Kings of Tampa behind, Mike feels stuck in his stable but comparatively mundane life, running his own moving business. When he finds out the old gang is heading up to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for a stripper convention, he doesn’t need much persuading to join in. A road trip filled with jocular banter, whey-smoothie chugging and twitchy molly tripping ensues. But only after a warm-up voguing contest at a gay club, whereupon Mike urges the bros to quit relying on old 1980s music and Village People impersonations and come up with new routines more true to their, well, souls.
When the guys are all loosey-goosey chums in the RV — like some sort of straight version of “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” — things stay on the fun side. It’s when they stop that it becomes a drag — especially the drop-in on old friend Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith), who now runs a private club catering to black women.
Even a cute little rap routine by comedian Donald Glover can’t dispel the weird, momentum-killing, slightly depressing vibe. Even as Rome tells her clientele that they are queens who can have whatever they want, many of them come off as pitiable Miss Lonelyhearts types, as do some of the patrons of the stripper convention in the movie’s final scene.
Next the group looks up Megan (Amber Heard), the obligatory fleeting love interest Mike met at a beach party earlier in the movie. They wind up flirting with her mother (Andie MacDowell) and three of her friends in such a patronizing way that you can’t wait for the mom-jeans routine to be over.
In the far too few moments when he actually dances, Tatum reprises the light-on-his-feet spins and twirls that are nothing short of amazing for someone of his substantial size. But Manganiello retains his title as Chief Hottie, and also scores the film’s high comedic point in a scene where he is challenged by his buddies to coax a smile out of a dour-faced convenience-store clerk absorbed in texting.
As he prances and thrusts up and down the aisles, ripping open bags of snacks and pouring a bottle of water over his shirtless bod, you can imagine SuperAmerica managers everywhere groaning in dread of real-life copycats. The line of the summer may well become a sultry “How much for the Cheetos and water?”
Director Gregory Jacobs (who assisted Soderbergh on “Ocean’s Eleven,” “Twelve” and “Thirteen”) saves the full-on assault of six-packs and sweat for the finale, when each member of the quintet fulfills his solo dream at the convention, hosted by a manic Elizabeth Banks.
Jacobs should have dispensed with the sodden middle of his movie and skipped to this part halfway through. Guy candy is, after all, what its audience is after.