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'Magic Mike XXL' relentlessly targets its audience

The follow-up to the 2012 hit is a lot better than it has a right to be, given the attempt to cash in the surprise success of the first film.

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'Magic Mike XXL' stars Channing Tatum (r.) and Matt Bomer (l.).

Claudette Barius/Warner Bros. Pictures/AP

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“Magic Mike XXL” targets its audience as relentlessly as a personal trainer targets abs. This sequel to “Magic Mike” mostly dispenses with plot in order to serve up what it does best: showcase male stripper gyrations. Those gyrations more closely resemble highly suggestive calisthenics, but, judging from the flurry of bills flung wantonly at the dancers by giddy ladies, ballet moves were not a requirement.

Given the arrant attempt to cash in on the surprise success of the first film (minus here the presence of Matthew McConaughey), “Magic Mike XXL” is a lot better than it has a right to be. Channing Tatum, who is now, after this and “Foxcatcher,” officially a good actor, is back as Mike, who joins up with his old buddies – Richie (Joe Manganiello), Ken (Matt Bomer), Tarzan (Kevin Nash), Tito (Adam Rodriguez), and Tobias (Gabriel Iglesias) – on a road trip from central Florida to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for an annual male stripper convention. The buddy-buddy badinage is raucous and raw but always good-natured, and that describes the film as well.

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The excursions into heavy-duty dalliance are more funny than titillating, including a sequence set in a Victorian mansion presided over by an imperious hostess (Jada Pinkett Smith), and another set in the spacious homestead of a Southern belle (Andie MacDowell) celebrating her divorce with a bevy of other belles. And then, of course, there is the grand finale in Myrtle Beach, an almost otherworldly fantasia of flexing. What saves it all from being sordid is the open desire of the director, Gregory Jacobs, and his writer, Reid Carolin, to make sure the women in the film, not the male dancers, are ultimately the ones who are celebrated. Grade: B (Rated R for strong sexual content, pervasive language, some nudity and drug use.)