(out of 5)
We were so happy when the affable Mike managed to walk away from the exhausting grind of stripping in the conclusion of Steven Soderbergh’s mega hit of 2012, pursuing the dream of being in charge of his own business. A mere three years later and the dream isn’t all it was cracked up to be: long hours, paltry profits and disappointment in romance sees Channing Tatum run back to his old friends when he learns from them that their charismatic leader (played last time by a pre-Oscar Matthew McConaughey) has run off to Asia with the last film’s young star and begun their own operation overseas. The remaining bunch, including grizzled Kevin Nash, pretty Matt Bomer, feisty Adam Rodriguez and sex god Joe Manganiello have decided to hit the road from Florida to Myrtle Beach where they will perform at a stripper convention and have one last big show together. Our hero joins them because he could use the money and misses his old pals, recalling the plot of The Aristocats as these fellows encounter a number of adventures and personalities along the way, sometimes delayed by them and other times delighted while Tatum (filling in for Eva Gabor’s Duchess) is sweetly bemused by worlds both high and low; he has the same lock-eyed stare and smooth grin at a darkly lit Savannah private club as he does in the home of a wealthy southern-belle cougar (Andie MacDowell) who practically growls the minute she sees Manganiello. The low-burn calm of its star combined with the peripatetic narrative that never really sets up high stakes (it’s never fully clear why it’s their last big show and they don’t seem to care that much about winning) should make for a disaster, but the movie manages to bounce along on the charisma of its stars and is never frustrating or self-important. The lack of actual performance, clothed or not, is a bit of a problem, since one fun scene at a drag club and an extended performance at the end (capping the film off like a Busby Berkeley musical) do not a stripper movie make, but the boys look great and put heart and soul into making this a worthy sequel to what was, quite frankly, an overrated original. It would be better if scenes like Manganiello’s hilarious seduction of a convenience store employee were in greater supply, the movie rarely allows itself enough of that kind of spontaneity or sly fun, but you won’t regret it either.
Directed by Gregory Jacobs
Screenplay by Reid Carolin, based on his characters
Cinematography by Steven Soderbergh
Production Design by Howard Cummings
Costume Design by Christopher Peterson
Film Editing by Steven Soderbergh