Late in Magic Mike XXL, new in theaters, our reunited stripper—excuse me; male entertainer heroes are waiting backstage to perform at the 2015 stripper convention, or as it’s professionally known, “2015 Stripper Convention.” Though the purpose and possible reward for a performance slot at this convention are even vaguer than the rules at a Step Up dance off, the boys want to do their best, and one of them observes their competition performing a hilariously ludicrous stripper re-enactment of Twilight, to delighted shrieks from the crowd. Annoyed and dejected, he reports the vampire routine to his fellow entertainers. They grumble, but one of them concedes: it’s a smart business move. The rest are forced to agree.
I got where they were coming from as a viewer of Magic Mike XXL. To be clear, this movie is not Twilight-style pandering. It is, in fact, a well-assembled, sometimes smart, extremely likable, and oddly respectful good time. But Magic Mike XXL is also an unmistakable case study in giving the audience exactly what they want. Specifically, it gives to whatever audience went into Magic Mike expecting a bawdy stripper revue and disappointed by Steven Soderbergh’s funny and humane but still slightly chilly and more-than-slightly economics-conscious drama. Here is their reward for showing up: a sequel that more or less is the movie that Magic Mike advertised.