Magic Mike XXL begins with a fake-out. Stripper Mike (Channing Tatum) has managed to quit the business, buy an engagement ring for his girl, and launch a business designing rustic headboards for Tampa bohemians. But Mike's dreams haven't worked out. And then lumbering beast Tarzan (Kevin Nash) phones to tell Mike that their snake-hipped former boss Dallas (Matthew McConaughey) is dead.
He means dead to him — but XXL lets the misunderstanding linger for long, glum minutes as we groan that we've been tricked into attending a wake. Then it cracks a beer and toasts the boys' freedom. What a relief for both us and the gang -- Tarzan, pretty boy Ken (Matt Bomer), loudmouth Tito (Adam Rodriguez), towering Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello), and their joker DJ Tobias (Gabriel Iglesias). Dallas picked their outfits, choreographed their routines, and didn't give a damn if, say, his hot fireman was phobic of fire. So now what?
If Steven Soderbergh, director of the original Magic Mike, was slapping us voyeurs on the wrists, this sequel couldn't be more delighted to put on a show. It's a practically plotless party. Director Gregory Jacobs doesn't see his studs as callow grifters. Says new kid Donald Glover, "We're like healers." In that analogy, women are the patients, and the boys' caravan to a stripper convention in Myrtle Beach is Doctors Without Borders. At pitstops, the fellows disembark to delight the opposite sex. Mostly, the women they meet are wordless, screaming fans or an attentive audience simply giggling at their bro jokes, which is hard to grouse about when the women in the theater -- myself included -- were doing the same.