Magic Mike XXL (2015)

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“We’re gonna see if he still has some Magic in that Mike.”

Magic Mike XXL requires no thought. The surface level approach, with the greased up muscles and women swooning, practically auditioning for body spray commercials saying, “I want your Bod!”, works well for what it is. We get the who, the how, the when, the what. Yet, in any film, when the credits roll we better have a why. An answer and a reason. Don’t get me wrong, not every movie or story functions that way. Some filmmakers purposely drive us away from logic to promote alienation. But Magic Mike XXL is a wide release summer blockbuster which serves as the continuation to a tale about male strippers. This isn’t highbrow entertainment. At the same time, the movie is blissful fun, and parts transcend gender altogether to paint a purely lustful portrait of sexuality. Magic Mike XXL erupts and often abruptly ejaculates its message onto the screen in the form of harsh red hues and chiseled Greek Gods. But the meaning is nothing, the payoff is diluted, and the ending is non-existent. It’s a fun one night stand romp in the sack without any promise of future or fortune.

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You might be saying, “You’re overthinking the movie, dumbass.” That’s a fair yet inexperienced comment. The movie is equivalent to watching an energetic street performance. For those few brief moments you’re on cloud nine, feeling like a VIP watching the act of a lifetime. Then it ends, you pay up, and go about your way. I wasn’t overthinking when I watched Striptease or Showgirls and thought they were bad movies. In actuality, Magic Mike XXL is far more complex while being just as campy. This is a better movie than those, in its directing, acting, and the writing. It’s also never grim. Stripping, essentially, is a highly produced reveal. And that’s my problem with this movie. It’s all glitz and g-strings and glammer, but when the reveal comes, after the pants are yanked off and the musical chairs performance of dry-humping begins, there is nothing left to be found. You can’t pin the dildo shaped tail on the donkey when it’s not even there. And Mike may indeed be magic, but besides that we never know him. And I hate that more people don’t break past the glossy facade.

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Having finally gotten his custom furniture business up and running, Mike (Channing Tatum) has his eyes set forward. He sees a future as an adjusted adult in the real world. That doesn’t keep him from his passion though, thrusting his hips and swinging around beams in his workshop. Later on her gets a call…his old pal has died. It’s a trick by his former “team” of dancers, and they plan to get Mike to join them for one last blowout performance at a Myrtle Beach stripper convention. From there it’s a road trip, and one that is rather disconcerting and false-representative of the male fantasy. This crew is funny. They’re athletic and toned. Yet they’re also thirty-something drunks who take Molly for breakfast and sleep with random women on the beach. Really, ladies, that’s what turns you on? It baffles my mind, how a smart woman can see this piece of fictional storytelling and imagine it as real life. The fact that Magic Mike XXL plays itself so grounded serves as an unattainable goal.

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In spite of my grievances with its misguided portrayal of manhood, I must admit that the movie has its strong spots. A few come in extended scenes focused on one location. Since the “where” stays so stagnant, it forces us onto the “who” and sparks change/growth in their “how/why”, providing some of the few spots worthy of a crisped and neatly tucked dollar bill. The movie is well acted as too. I was again surprised by Kevin Nash as the stage named Tarzan. Years of wrestling experience serve him well as far as stage persona goes. However, the movie is both stolen and sold by Joe Manganiello as Big Dick Richie. He’s like an old frat boy still rushing his own house, determined to party the hardest, score the most chicks, and have the most fun. And without Manganiello, who here is literally a brick shithouse force to be reckoned with, the movie would be flat and boring. He’s a blessing in a readily baring disguise. Jada Pinkett Smith rounds out the supporting cast as the group’s tantalizing emcee.

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Director Gregory Jacobs does good work here, even if it does lack a little panache. It’s only his third gig leading a film and in some spots it shows…he’s no Steven Soderbergh from the last time around the block. The most obvious appeal to the movie is Tatum though. I mean, just look at the poster. Tatum literally has every tool at his disposal. The man, especially after showing such great dramatic nuance as an actor in Foxcatcher and pure comedic instincts in the Jump Street series, has proven that he can do anything. Magic Mike XXL stresses the importance of its characters being male entertainers and not just strippers. They’re male, and they sure are entertaining, and they’re also so mundane and conventional that you never think to question why that is the case. So cool your jets and stop that burning hotflash of emotion. Magic Mike XXL allows men to be men and for women to be women. But they are so plain and undefined emotionally that they come across as bathroom gender signs. I’ll admit that this is a fun movie. I just wish that it had more substance to it than tanning lotion and lube.

“Nobody, nobody messes with the mojo on the last ride!”

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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