When “Magic Mike” was released in theaters in 2012, it became a huge hit, a date night for the ladies that provided just enough substance to keep guys forced to come along interested as well.
That doesn’t mean a sequel was necessary, yet here we are with “Magic Mike XXL” – a film that appropriately is about male strippers because it is mostly one big tease.
The female fanbase gets its wish, with some well choreographed dance numbers by scantily clad beefcakes, but those moments are few in a film that spends way too much time trying to develop a story that can’t decide if it should be taken seriously or played for laughs.
Set three years after the original, Channing Tatum returns as Mike. He is now struggling to keep his furniture business afloat, picking up the pieces of a failed relationship.
Mike is visited by his former male entertainers – including Richie (Joe Manganiello) and Tarzan (professional wrestler Kevin Nash) – who convince him to come with them for one last hurrah, a male stripper convention in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
And with that “Magic Mike XXL” turns into a cross between a road movie and a bizarro chapter of the “Step Up” franchise – with the group of male entertainers looking to make a splash on the big stage.
Along the way the guys meet everyone from Michael Strahan and Donald Glover as fellow strippers, Jada Pinkett Smith as the owner of a private club with ties to Mike and Andie MacDowell as a divorcee who takes a liking to Mangeniello’s character.
I was a fan of the original, which peeled back the curtain and turned into an interesting examination of the seedy lifestyle that comes with being a male stripper. It wasn’t afraid to show the profession’s underbelly, resulting in an interesting cautionary tale.
This film lacks that, losing two of its biggest assets with Steven Soderbergh replaced behind the camera by longtime assistant director Gregory Jacobs and Matthew McConaughey’s sleazy club owner/aging emcee written out of the film.
Tatum still gives it his all, with kind of a tongue in cheek performance that needed to be accentuated a little more.
When “Magic Mike XXL” doesn’t take itself seriously, it’s actually kind of funny. The film’s best moment comes when Manganiello does an impromptu dance routine for a stone faced convenience store clerk.
Unfortunately, most of the time the film tries to take itself way too seriously, emphasizing the gang’s desire for one last ride.
It only makes the characters look desperate and sad, trying to cling to something that seems kind of pointless.
Then again, unless you want a few glimpses of half-naked men, this whole film is pretty pointless as well.
Also in theaters
Another sequel to a 2012 hit, “Ted 2” (B-) fares a little better with a few laugh-out loud moments, but not as many as the original.
It’s a project that helps writer/director Seth MacFarlane make amends of sorts for last year’s uneven “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” but doesn’t quite rise to the level of the first “Ted.”
In “Ted 2” the talking, foul-mouthed, pot-smoking stuffed bear (voiced by MacFarlane) is married to Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth), with the couple wanting to have a baby.
The plans for parenthood are put on hold when Ted is declared a thing and has to prove to the court that he is indeed a person.
With help from his lifelong friend John (Mark Wahlberg) and a young attorney named Samantha (Amanda Seyfried), Ted sets out to win his case and get the rights to be a parent.
Anyone familiar with MacFarlane’s work on the animated TV series “Family Guy” will see a lot of similarities to that show in “Ted 2.”
If the original “Ted” was a very good episode of “Family Guy,” this is an average one.
Sure the film has plenty of laughs, but it seems to feel a little rehashed at times – lacking the two or three signature bits that made “Ted” stand out.
The film also lacks that soft side that made the original special.
Part of that charm is gone with Mila Kunis, the love interest in the original replaced by Seyfried. To Seyfried’s credit she is willing to be the butt of the joke, and gets just as crass and crude as the boys, but she doesn’t provide that balance that Kunis was able to bring.
There is also not that Sam Jones surprise cameo here. Sure we get a couple of nice moments with surprise appearances, but nothing that matches Jones’ walk-on role in “Ted.”
And that is where most of the problems with “Ted 2” lay. Most of this we’ve seen before in the previous film or MacFarlane’s other work.
But the fate of “Ted 2” really boils down to one simple question: Will fans of “Ted” and MacFarlane be pleased?
Anyone else will likely find it all juvenile and pointless.
“Ted 2” is rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language and some drug use and is now playing at the Regal Bowling Green Stadium 12 and Highland Cinemas in Glasgow.