‘Magic Mike XXL’ pleasantly surprises

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The concept of a film about male strippers seemed groundbreaking in 2012. Having it star Channing Tatum and revealing the story was loosely based off of the actor’s past was a formula for high expectations.

“Magic Mike” didn’t meet mine. I remember leaving the theater awkwardly with my cackling mother and wondering what I had just dedicated the last 110 minutes of my life to.

The film didn’t have a plot. It didn’t tell a story as much as it just gave Tatum a prolonged platform to grind to “Pony” and Alex Pettyfer an opportunity to finally show how edgy he could be through his role as Adam. So let’s just say I had extremely low expectations for “Magic Mike XXL.”

I was pleasantly surprised.The story was still weak. Mike Lane, Tatum’s character, quit the Kings of Tampa and finally started his custom furniture business. But things are rough. He has one employee who he can’t afford to provide with health care and his girlfriend of three years left him.

What’s a guy feeling down to do? Easy. You join your former stripper friends on a trip to Myrtle Beach for a stripper convention to perform one last big show.

That’s it. That’s the story.

But there was a saving grace to this film, and it wasn’t Joe Manganiello’s abs.

It was funny. Like I-can’t-breathe, my-stomach-hurts funny.

“Magic Mike” was so focused on Mike trying to mentor Adam and then trying to save Adam we only got a faint taste of the relationship between Mike and the other strippers. But that’s all “Magic Mike XXL” is. And the interactions between these five men were hilarious.

They pushed and teased each other the way only close friends can. This familiarity put them in some funny and tough situations such as dancing in a drag show, crashing a frozen yogurt truck into a tree and seeking refuge in a den of wine drunk cougars.

A majority of the comedy relied on Tatum. Whether you want to admit it or not, Tatum is a talented comedic actor. Not necessarily with one-liners, but he has a great sense of timing and understands how the most subtle looks or sounds can turn a moment of silence or action into one of laughter.

If none of this is doing it for you, the cast alone might be enough to warrant a ticket for this film. From Michael Strahan in booty shorts to a shirtless Donald Glover or Jada Pinkett Smith as the voice of women, “Magic Mike XXL” is seriously packing in terms of cameos.

It’s rare for me to say a sequel is better than the original, but “Magic Mike XXL” stepped up its game. The plot was better, though only slightly, and the characters were far more enjoyable.

Just please don’t make another. Please.

Lexia Banks https://disqus.com/home/forums/idsnews/