Review: ‘Magic Mike XXL’ is a mixed bag of a stripper road movie

Picking up three years after the original, “Magic Mike XXL” continues the saga of hunky stripper Mike (Channing Tatum, who used to be a dancer himself). He has quit disrobing to run his own construction business but decides he wants to leave the stripper life with a bang.

Rounding up the rest of the Kings of Tampa gang – Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Adam Rodriguez, Gabriel Iglesias, and Kevin Nash – they head to Myrtle Beach for a stripping competition. (Missing this go-round are co-stars Matthew McConaughey and Alex Pettyfer). “Magic Mike XXL” becomes basically a road movie as the group makes their way towards their final gig.

Its producers have certainly been eyeballing the LGBT community with this. Bomer – who is openly gay – and Tatum popped up in a float at the recent Los Angeles Pride parade and the movie had a splashy bow at the Frameline International LGBT Film Festival in San Francisco. Gay men and women are clearly the target audience here.

No one would call the original “Magic Mike” a classic, but at least it had ace director Steve Soderbergh behind the scenes to give life to the scenes where clothes aren’t coming off. Taking over the reins here is Gregory Jacobs, who has collaborated with Soderbergh on projects such as the Liberace film “Behind the Candelabra.” The moments when the group are just hanging mid-trip aren’t terribly interesting and few of the characters have more than one dimension. Manganiello, as Big Dick Richie, at least gets to ooze charisma and sexuality. He realizes this isn’t Pinter.

The movie is helped by some nifty excursions. After dabbling with some strip moves at a club populated with drag queens, the group visits Savannah and a colleague of Mike, Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith). She runs a private club for women (she refers to all the ladies as queens) and has a bevy of African-American entertainers, including talk show host and former NFL player Michael Strahan in gold lamé short shorts shaking and gyrating impressively. It’s by far the most energetic sequence in the film.

Looking for a place to crash, the boys also visit Charleston and run into a number of Southern belles, including Andie MacDowell. The women’s confusion and skepticism melt when they realize who they have in the house. The ever-busy Elizabeth Banks pops up near the end as the convention’s leader and there is something of a flirtation between her and Rome.

Yet overall, “Magic Mike XXL” is kind of a mixed bag. It all climaxes in a competition where the guys engage in some well-choreographed and often funny numbers. In that aspect, it delivers. The journey there, however, isn’t nearly as smooth as their moves.

“Magic Mike XXL
Now playing in Atlanta area theaters