Magic Mike XXL

Magic Mike XXL photo starrating-3stars.jpgOn paper, a sequel like Magic Mike XXL shouldn’t work. It has no plot and no conflict. The director of the original surprise hit has changed (Steven Soderbergh is editor and cinematographer), and major star, Matthew McConaughey, is gone. This is simply a road trip movie with a bunch of guys hanging out, who also happen to strip for a living. They’re on their way from Florida to Myrtle Beach for the annual strippers’ convention. They have conventions? None of them are getting any younger, so this is seen as their last hurrah together. Their vehicle, an old ice cream truck, makes stops along the way. Friends are made in different locales.

Magic Mike XXL stars men, but it’s really about the women. Those they meet on the trip and those for whom they entertain. There’s Nancy (Andie MacDowell) who hosts a group of well-to-do Southern ladies sipping wine at her luxurious estate or Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith), the proprietor of a ladies’ club that caters to an African American clientele. At a beach party Mike meets Zoe (Amber Heard), an acerbic love interest in a truly expendable character. In between getting from point A to point B they perform shows.

The gang’s routines relied on the “classics” in the first film – the fireman, the cowboy, the military number. This time Mike (Channing Tatum) seeks to reinvent their show so that it’s more fun for them to act. He hopes their renewed passion will invigorate the show. Joe Manganiello as Richie steals the spotlight, not once, but twice. In the finale, Joe Manganiello outfitted in a tux, mock proposes to a girl in the crowd. He walks her through a wedding ceremony while Donald Glover sings Bruno Mars’ “Marry You” in the background. (Oh Matt Bomer sings a couple times too and it’s shockingly good.) Then comes the wedding night and “Closer,” by Nine Inch Nails plays. The performance is prurient, but it’s also creative. There are some genuinely hilarious moments too. The guys dare Richie to walk into a gas station and make the unhappy plain jane behind the counter smile with a dance routine to the Backstreet Boys. The scene has a sexual bent but its overall gist is one of sweetness. The scene is shot to amplify the energy of the club.

Star Channing Tatum is charismatic and he can dance. Now I’m not talking the smooth elegance of Fred Astaire or the dazzling technique of Gene Kelly. But Channing exhibits an athleticism that draws on the bump and grind mentality of the tradition. The choreography employs enough gravity defying flair with physical lifting to make what he does seem difficult. His earnest “let’s-put-on-a-show” ethos is infectious and he heads up a cast of dudes that really just want to entertain. Their heart is in the right place, even if their chosen profession is a bit salacious. They enjoy hanging around each other almost as much as they enjoy being onstage. It’s their friendship that unites the spaces in between musical numbers. These are nice guys who happen to be in great athletic shape. In most movies they would be stereotyped as greasy jerks. But these buddies don’t put anybody down and they never act in a mean-spirited fashion. The boys have a relaxed, easygoing camaraderie that is contagious.

What elevates the production is the utter feeling of positivity. Good vibes surround the film. The boys are charming. They have big hearts and they want to make the audience feel good about themselves. Their performances are highlighted by spectators that are average everyday women. These are not gorgeous models picked out of central casting, but average girls who are missing something in their lives. The analogy is made that the dancers are like shrinks catering to “queens who need to be worshiped”. They’re selling a fantasy. The bros are manipulative, but so is the drama. The picture never pretends to be anything less. Magic Mike XXL is such a pure film, it’s practically revolutionary. It’s a surprisingly lighthearted production given the subject matter. The whole thing has an uplifting view of humanity that I wasn’t expecting. Yes the narrative is a (ahem) skin deep examination of this lifestyle, but it’s still a better movie than it has any right to be.

06-30-15

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15 Responses to “Magic Mike XXL”

  1. The original bored me to tears and although I know I’m clearly not its target audience (I loved The Full Monty), I was hoping for some humour or conflict of some kind. I have a feeling I’ll be dragged along to see this regardless!

    • The original was a deeper exploration into the lives of these guys. Depending on who you are, thesis sequel is the film that people feared (or hoped) the original would be. Personally, I liked XXL less, but it’s not a bad film.

  2. abbiosbiston Says:

    My book club and I are going to see this for scientific research purposes on Sunday…

  3. Good review, I just reviewed the first one for Shitfest.

  4. Great review, Mark. Possibly seeing this on Monday. Haven’t watched the first one yet, though!

  5. Just watched the first one the other day. I guess it was all right, but I admit I’ll definitely have to watch it again because I kind of forced myself to watch it when I was really, really tired. (I did the same with Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up the following night, and I couldn’t tell whether I’d fallen asleep for 15-20 minutes halfway through the movie.) I’ll admit that I found the plot interesting, but I guess I would have said that anyway from just reading IMDb’s quick blurb about it. I also didn’t get how it was supposed to be a comedy. None of it really struck me as humorous.

    Like I said, I’ll definitely have to watch the first one again sometime soon, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy it more the second time around. Steven Soderbergh is one of my favorite directors, so I can’t see why I wouldn’t like it, unless it’s as bad as Ocean’s Twelve.

    • I don’t care what anyone says. The first one isn’t a comedy. It’s a drama — and a pretty dark one at that.

      I would say XXL has comedy though. It’s quite different from the first.

  6. This was a simple road trip movie. Nothing deep, just a group of guys traveling to an event and making fun stops along the way. 3 stars.

  7. I wasn’t a huge fan of the first Magic Mike, but a lot of my friends have told me this one is fun. From your description of the wedding act and the gas station interlude, it sounds like a good time. I’m encouraged by reading about the positive vibe with this film. I like that the main characters have big hearts and they’re out to make the audience feel good. I wish more films took an optimistic approach like that.

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