“Magic Mike XXL” is a kids’ movie for adults — loads of fun. The audience clapped, laughed and gasped at appropriate moments. It’s a road trip with a mission — a group of guys who once did “male entertainer” shows together team up one last time to enter a national stripper contest. But this is not a stripper movie. The movie was made by a collection of artists who love to work in film, most of them industry multi-hyphenates. It’s a joy to watch because they had so much fun making it. The story covers the loneliness and fear of those of us who are realizing that our high school or college dreams are not real life — that life is something you create as you go along, and if you put yourself out there and give to those around you, yours becomes that much more fulfilling.

That’s pretty deep stuff for a movie that I believe was shot without a script. It appears there was a story outline and scenes materialized around it. There is no dead air or lack of rhythm, however. The players’ enthusiasm and warmth injects the film with an infectious energy.

Not to mention … these guys have worked their bodies to the max and have acquired great skills to match incredible dance talents. What a pleasure to watch! Men who dance with grace and skill are hard to find. In so much of our visual art, the female body is glorified. It’s refreshing to see the male body as the artwork.

This film offers a lot of surprises. Michael Strahan does a memorable cameo inside a darkened “Ladies Club,” Jada Pinkett Smith “steals” her first few scenes as the Madam, the “background women” give compelling performances, Amber Heard Depp plays a well-rounded ingenue searching for identity, Andie MacDowell is a feisty, elegant divorcee, Donald Glover is the sensitive guy, Elizabeth Banks has a cameo as a Southern pageant director. The camera operator/director of photography is none other than Steven Soderbergh (under the pseudonym of Peter Andrews). The editor, billed as Mary Ann Bernard is also … wait for it … Steven Soderbergh. Great job by Steven on this project! He and production designer Howard Cummings create fascinating environments that strike the perfect emotional balance with the unfolding story.

The core group of guys — reluctant strippers Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello, wrestling star Kevin Nash, Adam Rodriguez and Matt Bomer, are charming, entertaining, and convey complex characters we can identify with. And that brings another surprise — this is not just a chic flick — it’s for guys too, a great buddy movie. Get out there and see it, men!

A friend reported that at one screening, most of the audience sat in the theatertalking about the movie after the credits rolled. As Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I remember seeing “Zorba the Greek” as a teenager — I will never forget the feeling of exhilaration I came away with. “Magic Mike XXL” exudes this feeling.

Rated R. 115 minutes.

Kathryn Whitney Boole was drawn into the entertainment industry as a kid and never left. It has been the backdrop for many awesome adventures with crazy creative people. She now works as a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. Reach her at kwboole@gmail.com. For previously published reviews, see https://kwboole.wordpress.com.

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