After enduring 111 minutes of the car crash that was Magic Mike, I was understandably apprehensive about the follow-up to the 2012 American comedy-drama film directed by Steven Soderbergh.
But in the three years since the original was released, Warner Bros have done two very important things: It's changed its director and its direction.
Gone is the dark drama that attempted to denounce the seedy world of adult entertainment with underlit lenses, but lacking the narrative pull to actually make it all believable. In its place is a ridiculously entertaining rumbustious movie where anything goes.
I had prepared myself to once again watch pained strippers dryhump a stage as thousands of unruly women showered them with dollar bills, but was pleasantly surprised. The franchise has had a tonal shift and and unlike other underwhelming makeovers, it wasn't an anticlimax.
Against the backdrop of soundtrack that includes R&B classics such as Ginuwine's Pony and 112's Anywhere, the coming together of over-the-hill strippers keen to have "one last ride" was just as rapturous as well-planned hen parties are supposed to be.
Having seen the augmented trailer and 15 minutes, the storyline struggled to get off the ground and momentum appeared to be going nowhere fast.
All we knew was that the lead character Mike, played by Channing Tatum, had finally pursued his dream of owning a carpentry business and had settled into a mundane existence and his beefy former stripping buddies were in tatters after their leader Matthew McConaughey character ran off with "the kid".
But after an injection of viagra courtesy of Mike deciding on a whim to join his old friends Tarzan (Kevin Nash), Tito (Adam Rodriguez), Ken (Matt Bomer) and Richie (Joe Manganiello) for "one last ride" at a male stripper convention in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, the pelvic-thrusting machine kicks into gear. "If I go down, I'm going down in a tsunami of dollar bills," says Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello) as they set off on their women-worshipping travels.
Although this time around the story line is very basic, it's a blessing it disguise. It doesn't try hard to be something it's not, which leaves behind the contrived feel of the original. By severing ties with it's nonsensical predecessor, it frees fans of the laborious task of having to suffer through the heavy tone of the first instalment before they can really enjoy the party.
Just like many road-trip movies, there are pit stops along the way. Old grudges have to be hashed out with a punch-up on the beach, their new MC is hurt when their minivan crashes into a tree and of course things get even more complex when Mike catches up with an old flame played by Jada Pinkett Smith, who runs an exotic entertainment palace, during one stop in Savannah.
Mike even finds himself justifying his love for cookies with new love interst Zoe (Amber Heard) at a rich woman's (Andie MacDowell) estate.
By the end of the movie, the group -- having gained a couple of new members and changed a divorcee's life along the way -- are more determined than ever to put on a performance to remember. Thanks to a five-minute montage we know that they have had refined the art of titillation and are now armed with a new routine and lots of whipped cream.
At the convention, the group steal the show. Their dance numbers come alive with camp energy and benefit from the charm of fantastical realism. And at the end it's not all about the being greasy entertainers in thongs, it's about fulfilling a commitment to the thousands of women that they are there to please.
Magic Mike XXL is a pelvis-thrusting, feel-good movie without the oiled-up awkwardness of a Chippendale's reunion.
The male-stripper comedy has been given a new lease of life and lots of heart thanks to director Gregory Jacobs -- a frequent producer and assistant director for Soderbergh on projects including The Knick and Side Effects -- and definitely lives up to the extra-extra-large boast of its title.
Although the road trip format is old territory, the journey on which the men embark is a celebration of friendship, their past and the new chapters they are about to start.
The rippling biceps, epic one-liners and Channing Tatum's impressive dance moves will likely appeal to audiences beyond it prime demographic of rowdy women and camp cinemagoers.