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Magic Mike XXL

This film is a mess, but nobody cares because male strippers!

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The beefcake boys of Florida's hottest male strip club are back, in Gregory Jacobs' sequel to the 2012 hit. Unsurprisingly, the "plot" involves them practicing for and competing in a dance strip-off. Channing Tatum reprises his role as Magic Mike; Mount Lebanon's Joe Manganiello is back as Big Dick Richie, as are Matt Bomer ("Ken") and Kevin Nash ("Tarzan"). (Sadly, douchey club-owner Dallas doesn't come back, though everybody talks about him a lot.)

So, it's a road trip, and be forewarned, also something of a feint, since it takes nearly 90 minutes to get all the guys together on stage and stripping. Mostly, XXL lets the men do individual routines: The most impressive is Tatum's tool-shop gravity-buster, and the funniest is Manganiello's convenience-store work-out.

This lack of what the poster offers (the gang dancing together) is just one of many, many things wrong with this lazily assembled, poorly written, badly lit and otherwise all-around dumb film. And whatever, because it just doesn't matter. Everybody at the screening — even those who weren't sharing bottles of wine — loved it. LOVED IT.

But for all the muscles and bro talk and big dicks, the boys of Magic Mike XXL are noticeably feminized: They have tantrums, argue about boy bands, squeal over getting phone numbers and share personal-grooming advice. (Seriously, they are teen-age girls!) Most intriguing, at every stop along this traveling slumber party, the lads need the intervention of a strong, older female — one who flat-out tells them what to do next, and then directly facilitates it.

Besides the obvious fantasy element — virtual proximity to nearly naked buff guys gyrating suggestively — XXL offers an extra-fantasy for older female viewers that these super hotties are also super-relatable (skin care, y'all!), and would welcome their unappreciated take-charge skills earned over decades of corralling husbands, kids, co-workers, pets and so on. Time and again, XXL lets these female characters stop the action and give lectures and directives about what women want, followed by scenes in which the male entertainers do just that to a variety of women (black, white, young, old, thin, ample). 

The presumption from whoever test-marketed and shaped this girls-night-out film seems to be: Give the ladies exactly what they want. Like a meta-scene in which the male strippers — lost and alone in the Carolina night — are taken in, comforted, admired and gently mocked by a room full of wine-swilling middle-aged women. Bring on the dancing boys!

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