“Y’all seen ‘Magic Mike,’ right?” Michael Jai White rhetorically asks in the opening scene of “Chocolate City.” “Now, we gonna add a little chocolate.”
One could take that as a dig at the lack of diversity in the 2012 Steven Soderbergh movie, but “Chocolate City” does put that Channing Tatum male-stripper opus on a pedestal with repeated shout-outs, as if preemptively conceding that comparisons are inevitable.
Broke college student Michael McCoy (Robert Ri’chard) flips burgers in his spare time to alleviate the financial burdens on his widowed mother, Katherine (Vivica A. Fox). Princeton, the club manager played by White (in a role akin to Matthew McConaughey’s in “Magic Mike”), recruits Michael in a chance encounter. With goading by his deadbeat brother (DeRay Davis), Michael reluctantly takes up Princeton on his offer.
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“Magic Mike” might actually be the more realistic of the movies. “Chocolate City” alludes to the indignity of stripping but offers little proof. The film ends up as soap-opera material as Michael’s Bible-thumping mom and his girlfriend (Imani Hakim) threaten to uncover the double life he leads.
The make-it-rain clichés are abundant and Jean-Claude La Marre’s direction is pedestrian, but at least a few of the choreographed numbers here prove more magical than what Soderbergh mustered.
MPAA rating: R for sexual content, partial nudity, language, brief violence.
Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.
Playing: AMC Universal CityWalk 19; Pacific Lakewood Center 16. Also on VOD.