Directed by: Gregory Jacobs
Produced by: Reid Carolin
Screenplay by: Reid Carolin
Based on: Characters by Reid Carolin
Starring: Channing Tatum
Jada Pinkett Smith
Cinematography by: Steven Soderbergh
Editing by: Steven Soderbergh
Studio: Iron Horse Entertainment
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date(s): July 1, 2015 (United States)
July 3, 2015 (United States)
Running time: 115 minutes
Country: United States
Production budget: $14.8 million
Box-office revenue (as of publication): $117, 813, 057
I'm on fire baby! It's like on more concoctions than Rainer Werner Fassbinder in his day, and yet the only drugs to enter my system are caffeine and tobacco. Booyeah! I guess I just wanna ride this horse while I'm still on it because, not to take away from the reviewing side of things, this is just practice for what's to come. I've hinted at it previously, but I'll get to telling you when I feel like it, because the time is not right. It's coming, but not right now. So, now, for all the latest and greatest as regards to the movies, keep your eyes posted!
Today's film up for review is Magic Mike XXL, the follow-up to Steven Soderberg's surprise hit 2012 film. The biggest surprise of that film, notwithstanding the highly profitable grossing of $167 million off of it's $7 million, was that it was, as me and Daniel Kelly both agreed, far more potent a drama than we expected. We went in thinking this was going to a fun and occasionally outrageous comedy in the world of male stripping, but I in particular was taken by how poignant and strong the film was from that standpoint. Indeed, I went so far as to compare Channing Tatum to Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire, his performance as Mike Lane winning him (quite deservedly) the Kevin Spacey Award for Best Male Actor in a Leading Role from yours truly. Three years after the events of Magic Mike, Mike Lane (Tatum) is running his own furniture business, when he receives a call from his old buddy Tarzan (Kevin Nash) informing him that Dallas is gone. Believing his former boss has died, Mike drives to a hotel to discover his friends having a pool party, and that Dallas in fact had bailed on them to start a new show, but that the remaining Kings Of Tampa plan to end their careers on a high note by going on the road to a stripping convention in Myrtle Beach. After initially declining, Mike hears one of his old stripping tunes while at work, to which he dances, and reinvigorated, decides to join the rest of the gang on their trip.
To start with the good, I do have to once again compliment Channing Tatum. Granted, it's not a performance that ranks up there with that in the previous film or the hilarity he found in Greg Jenko in the Jump Street films, but he is a consummate professional. Just to watch the way this guy moves, making a simple wordless scene involving woodworking into a highly expressive emotional breakout is something to behold. Despite his being an actor of his times, he still brings something of that brooding quality that you'd see in Brando or James Dean, and as such there's a real classiness to him. I would love it if he sank his teeth into the lead role of a big awards contender because he just has that proverbial 'it' factor. Also good in their lesser capacities in this film are Kevin Nash, who continues to impress in his part as Tarzan, Jada Pinkett Smith at the best I've seen her in a long time as Rome, the owner of a strip club and a charismatic emcee. Finally on this front, Joe Manganiello's impromptu striptease in a gas station to the Backstreet Boys' I Want It That Way is a genuinely hysterical bit of work that had me bowled over in stitches at the sheer outrageousness and ridiculousness of it. Moments like this are where the film is at it's best. Although Steven Soderbergh is no longer at the helm, it is still very much the same crew involved, with Gregory Jacobs taking both producing and directorial duties, while Soderbergh retains his status as director of photography and editor. As DP, Soderbergh has the right understanding of how to frame the various actors, hiding their negatives and accentuating the positives. To use an example, anyone who knows Kevin Nash from his wrestling days knows he was a slow, methodical plodding giant in his prime twenty years ago, but Soderbergh works around his and others' limitations. In the case of Tatum, there are a lot of long takes, and it's clear that they just let him go and do his thing. This is best exemplified in the final dance performance/medley, with each of the characters doing their own piece, and it is an at times incredibly sensory experience just to watch. Knowing those who you are working with, and what they are good at and what they are not can be very helpful to a DP. The last thing I'd like to say is that considering how chaotic the whole outcome of the production could have been and the fact that it is, however good, a relatively perfunctory sequel, Gregory Jacobs does a good job of keeping everything together. It has problems (more of which in a jiffy), but Jacobs manages to ensure that it still remains funny, relatively engaging and entertaining.
Now, to get to the bad. Admittedly, I did not see Magic Mike as a movie designed for a sequel, nor do I consider this film's existence necessary. As I said, it's much of the same crew back on board, including screenwriter-producer Reid Carolin. I'm not going single him out because frankly I feel that everyone involved should have had a bit more self-awareness, as opposed to trying to milk this story dry, but Reid Carolin's screenplay lacks the depth, edge and three-dimensional qualities which made the last film so loveable. I mean, we've got Amber Heard here, who I like very much, in one of those nothing roles that does nothing for her talents, which is a shame really because it's the first time I've seen her since The Rum Diary. Instead, Magic Mike XXL is pieced together not with story or characters who have a legitimate arc that they follow but rather more like a series of sketches. Another of the problems that come with this structure is that some of these 'sketches' as I call them go on way too long, adding to a running time that could be considerably chopped. In that regard, especially given his efficiency as an artist, Soderbergh as an editor should have submitted a respectable cut between ninety and one-hundred minutes, because there's whole scenes that could have been excised. The momentum and pace built up by the excitement of certain sequences is just brought to a grinding halt at times by these scenes, and as such the film has a very stop-start feeling about it.
Magic Mike XXL, or Magic Mike Lite, as it would be more appropriately titled, is a problematic film, with a choppy screenplay that consists of sketches rather than story, and should have been edited with a great deal more efficiency. However, call me overly generous, but my overall feeling's for the film are largely positive. Channing Tatum is forever a consummate pro and has that 'it' factor that so few possess, and a number of the rest of the cast, specifically Joe Manganiello, Kevin Nash and Jada Pinkett Smith are also good. The movie is also well-shot, Soderbergh quite clearly working around the abilities of his performers and making a good looking picture to boot. As director, Gregory Jacobs does a good job of reigning things in and getting out of what could have been real messy at least a somewhat engaging, funny and entertaining movie. I think they have suitably squeezed everything they can out of Magic Mike now!
The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Good
P.S. Hello to Elizabeth Banks