It’s been three long years since we last saw Mike Lane (Channing Tatum)—the lovable Florida bohunk with music in his soul and magic in his pants—flex his pelvis so memorably to Ginuwine’s “Pony.” As XXL opens, he’s a private citizen once again, having left show business behind to make his dream of owning a custom-built furniture company come true.
But that, of course, is not the wood we came for. And when Mike’s siren song pops up on the radio during a late-night welding session in the workshop, it’s clear how much he misses the days of butt claps and baby oil. So when the old Kings of Tampa crew calls up and offers one more grab at the brass ring—a.k.a. a male-stripper convention in Myrtle Beach—he takes it. What follows is an oddly stilted road-trip ramble, with a storyline far shaggier than its scrupulously manscaped stars. Director Gregory Jacobs worked under original Magic Mike helmer Steven Soderberg for years, but sadly he has almost none of his former boss’s ability to elevate material that is essentially one lamé thong away from a TLC reality series. The returning Kings are endearingly game, and have clearly foregone carbs for our benefit (though it doesn’t help that with the exception of Tatum, they’re not exactly born dancers). Supporting players including Jada Pinkett Smith, Andie MacDowell, and Elizabeth Banks have good fun with underwritten roles, and the movie’s take on desire is admirably democratic (Sex: it’s not just for hot millenials!). Still, for all the glistening, body-glittered beefcake, there’s not much meat on these bones. B–