‘Back on the Strip’ Review: Just Some Mikes in Need of Magic

Wesley Snipes plays the leader of a has-been group of strippers vying for a second act in this ensemble comedy, which struggles to turn its gimmicky ideas into laughs.

By Brandon Yu

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According to “Back on the Strip,” a tedious ensemble comedy from Chris Spencer, what makes a man a successful stripper is not good looks, the right moves, or a memorable stage persona: Being a true once-in-a-generation talent, it posits, requires a substantial endowment down south. That’s what gave Mr. Big (Wesley Snipes), the leader of a once-famous male revue crew, his legendary status, and it’s what allows him to see a prodigy in Merlin (Spence Moore II), a young man who accidentally reveals himself onstage during a disastrous magic show in Las Vegas.

After Mr. Big spots this promise, he gets his old squad, the Chocolate Chips, back together, now with Merlin at the helm. But Merlin’s so-called gift is also the gimmicky curse at the heart of the movie. Traveling to Vegas at the behest of his mother (Tiffany Haddish, whose voice-over relentlessly narrates practically every scene), Merlin wants to become a professional magician, but his body puts him on a path that he feels is a compromise to that dream.

It’s both a shame and a wonder that the film managed to assemble such a beefed-up roster of talent — Snipes, Haddish, J.B. Smoove, Faizon Love and, in a cameo, Kevin Hart — for what amounts to a stilted, factory-line comedy.

Seeing Hart’s brief but flat cameo is a study in how even megawatt star power can be rendered lifeless without the right writing and direction. Snipes in particular gets lost in an overdone, confusingly drawn performance as a stud whose best days are behind him.

Back on the Strip
Rated R for sex stuff, language and some drug use. Running time: 1 hour 57 minutes. In theaters.

Back on the Strip

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