‘Magic Mike XXL’ turns up the summer heat

Lapacazo Sandoval | 7/9/2015, 11:09 a.m.

“Magic Mike XXL,” co-written by Channing Tatum and Reid Carolin, appears to be a simple story about chiseled strippers whose one passion is to give lap dances to screaming women shaking dollar bills. However, underneath this sequel are very strong messages about faith, courage, letting go and learning to love yourself.

Yes, I am still writing about the same “Magic Mike XXL, ” and those issues are present because Tatum and Carolin, as writers, value loyalty and love and respect the life lessons that are learned when you pay attention to the pearls of wisdom that are part of this journey called life.

The story picks up three years later after Mike walked away from the stripper life, leaving at the top of his game and making himself a legend in the process.

Life goes on for the better or worse of it, and the remaining Kings of Tampa, Ken (Matt Bomer), Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello) and Tito (Adam Rodriguez), have all thrown in the towel. Then an opportunity drops into their laps and they collectively decide to go for the glory, burning down the house in one last blowout performance in Myrtle Beach—with Magic Mike sharing the spotlight.

In act two, one of the funniest lines is said by a drag queen played by Tori Snatch (Vicky Vox) that best sums up the humor in this film: “Hey, don’t mess with the mojo, especially on the last ride.”

What a ride. On the road to their final show, there are comedic whistle stops in Jacksonville and Savannah to revisit old acquaintances and make new friends who are so wonderfully written and performed that you forget yourself for a moment. You get lost in the absurdity and joy of this seemingly hopeless endeavor.

A cellphone is tossed from a moving food truck (driven by stand-up comedian Gabriel Iglesias), old arguments resurface and along the way they practice new stripper routines that are so hot they could melt the polar ice caps. This is the perfect date night movie for adventurous adults. Joining the returning cast are Amber Heard (“The Rum Diary”), Donald Glover (“Community”), Stephen “Witch” Boss (“Step Up Revolution”) and Michael Strahan (“Live with Kelly and Michael”), with Andie MacDowell (“Footloose”), Elizabeth Banks (“The Hunger Games” franchise) and Jada Pinkett Smith (“Gotham”).

“Magic Mike XXL” is directed by Emmy Award winner Gregory Jacobs (“Behind the Candelabra”), who served as a producer on “Magic Mike,” as well as numerous features in a long- running collaboration with Stev aen Soderbergh. Steven Soderbergh, who directed the first film, acted as executive producer. The creative filmmaking team includes production designer Howard Cummings and costume designer Christopher Peterson.

“Magic Mike XXL” opened July 1.