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The first Magic Mike was billed as an over-the-top stripper comedy, but underneath those gold lamé thongs it turned out to be something far more surprising: a sober examination of the American dream. We watched Mike Lane try to pull himself up by the bootstraps, only to find himself judged, used, discarded, and creatively constrained.

The sequel Magic Mike XXL, in contrast, is all gold lamé thongs — or rather, it would be if the boys hadn’t decided gold lamé thongs were passé. The former kings of Tampa have ditched all depth and ambivalence in pursuit of drunken good times. And it works, albeit in a completely different way from the first Magic Mike. The result is the perfect summer movie: dumb, sweet, eager to please, and hard not to like. 

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From Magic Mike to XXL

At first, Magic Mike XXL appears to continue the more contemplative tone of its predecessor. Three years out of the biz, Mike (Channing Tatum) is still struggling to get his custom furniture business off the ground. The clients are coming, but slowly, and Mike laments that he can’t offer health insurance to his sole employee. His personal life isn’t much more cheery. Brooke is out of the picture, and the Xquisite dudes haven’t spoken to Mike in years.

Through a series of contrivances, though, Mike finds himself falling back in with his old gang. Matthew McConaughey‘s Dallas and Alex Pettyfer‘s Adam have conveniently been written out, but Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello), Ken (Matt Bomer), Tarzan (Kevin Nash), Tito (Adam Rodriguez), and Tobias (Gabriel Iglesias) all return in exaggerated form. Before he knows it, Mike’s agreed to tag along with them on one last ride, to a massive stripper convention in Myrtle Beach.

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Throwing Narrative Stakes Out the Window

From there, the film proceeds to throw weighty concerns out the window like so many unneeded banana hammocks. Sometimes even literally: Mike’s business ceases to be a topic of concern once Richie chucks his cell phone to the side of the road. Mike’s broken heart heals when he meets a different surly girl to cheer up. Lingering resentments are settled with a quick jab to the nuts. Not even a concussion can stop these guys from having a good time.

By the time the road trip is in full swing, the stakes in Magic Mike XXL have dwindled down to nothing. In most films, that’d be a serious weakness. In Magic Mike XXL, it’s a strength. This film is so pleasantly feather-light, it’d be a shame to bog it down with serious emotion or thought. Instead, Magic Mike XXL coasts on charisma, moves, and a naked (pun totally intended) desire to please.

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A Sweeter Take on the Bro Fantasy

As if the returning cast weren’t eye-candy enough, XXL adds several new faces to the roster. The best new character is Rome, an exotic entertainment proprietress played with slinky sensuality by Jada Pinkett Smith. She brings a crew of her own, including earnest musician Augustus (Donald Glover) and virtuoso dancer Malik (Stephen “tWitch” Boss).

While the draw of handsome men in their underwear is obvious, it’s the chemistry between them that makes Mike magic. Think of its as an Entourage bro fantasy for the ladies, with all of the camaraderie and none of the machismo. Even their locker room talk is more sweet than crass. When the guys hound Big Dick Richie about his sex life, it plays less like leering and more like genuine friendly concern.

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