Magic Mike XXL (4 stars)

Magic Mike XXL

Credit: Claudette Barius

Things are about to get mighty warm as the Kings of Tampa hit the road

Hotter than a heat-wave and with no shortage of bare-assed cheek, the posse of perky peck-flexers leave the ladies of Tampa behind, heading to Myrtle Beach for a final groin-thrusting, breakaway-trousers-liberating hurrah, before they hang up their thongs. Steven Soderbergh returns as DP and editor, while he hands directorial duties over to regular collaborator Gregory Jacobs, with Reid Carolin back as writer.

In keeping with the original film, Magic Mike XXL is a winning blend of male bonding and female fantasy which sees the newly heartbroken Mike (Channing Tatum, whose experiences as a stripper inspired both films) taking a weekend away from his furniture business to join his old buddies on a road trip. Their destination? A stripping convention. Their method of transport? A frozen yogurt van. As these sizeable scorchers pile in, all signs point to a defrosting disaster.

Oscar-winner Matthew McConaughey has outgrown the franchise but enhanced roles for Matt Bomer and Joe Manganiello bear fruit and a stalking, purring Jada Pinkett Smith proves herself capable of filling the Texan twinkler's shoes as MC, with Elizabeth Banks and Andie MacDowell gamely playing along. Tatum (who shakes-his-thang like he's feather-light) and newcomer Stephen 'tWitch' Boss provide the most eye-popping moves.

This sequel might take time to hit its stride but it's so much more than knee-trembling entertainment. What could have been a simple cash-in is a charming 'bromantic' comedy – elegantly shot, sensitive to character – with the troupe learning to love their status as male entertainers by ditching the cheese and getting creative, developing routines that are true to who they are.

These laidback ladies' men manage to be both blokey and vulnerable; in their geniality, old-fashioned manners and tendency to put women on a pedestal they're a welcome antidote to the obnoxious all-male ensembles that have become a mainstay of commercial comedy (Entourage being the latest offender). Their idiosyncrasies, talents and affection for each other are positioned at the fore, alongside their fears, regrets and insecurities.

If it sounds like XXL takes itself too seriously, it doesn't – something to raise blushes and whoops is around every corner. Whether the boys are embracing their inner queens, literally charming the pants off some middle-aged admirers or – best of all – trying to get a petrol station employee to crack a smile (in a sequence destined to be a highlight of the year), Magic Mike XXL is as sweet and steamy as oven-fresh cherry pie.

General release from Fri 3 Jul.

Magic Mike XXL

  • 4 stars
  • 2015
  • US
  • 1h 55min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Greg Jacobs
  • Cast: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer
  • UK release: 3 July 2015

Mike (Tatum) takes a weekend away from his business to join his stripper buddies on a road trip to … a stripping convention. Winning blend of male bonding and female fantasy, with the men much more likable than most all-male comedy ensembles. As sweet and steamy as fresh cherry pie.