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Magic Mike XXL

tn_mmxxlMAGIC MIKE XXL is a movie about a group of musclebound dudes going on a road trip together to enter a big competition. Along the way they pick up girls, get drunk, get high, meet new friends, reunite with old ones, repair old wounds, learn lessons, fall in love, get laid, confess vulnerabilities, get in a wreck, go to a hospital, all the things you would expect. And yet it feels one-of-a-kind in its attitude.

Like the first MAGIC MIKE this stars and was produced by Channing Tatum, inspired by his past as a “male entertainer,” or stripper, and written by his friend Reid Carolin. People don’t seem to remember this, but Tatum was kind of the co-lead of that first movie, trying to get out of the game while showing the ropes to The Kid (Alex Pettyfur), who ends up becoming a drug addict, turning the fun times into a cautionary bummer. I liked the movie but the sequel is significantly better for ditching The Kid and focusing on Mike taking a vacation from his designer furniture company to get in a food truck with the boys and take One Last Ride to Myrtle Beach.

The team is no longer led by Matthew McConaughey as Dallas. That sounded like a problem when the news first got out, but it’s actually an asset. With his character no longer there to absorb all your attention the movie gives way more shine to the other dancers, especially Joe Manganiello (SABOTAGE) as the towering, abrasive but large-hearted doofus Big Dick Richie, and Matt Bomer as the eyebrow plucking pretty boy Ken, who reveals a funny New Agey side. Like all of their eccentricities they tease him about it but also accept it. True friendship.

The wrestler Kevin Nash returns as Tarzan, who still has minimal dialogue but is a funny and lovable presence just standing around looking real earnest about this stripper shit.

mp_mmxxlAlot of people deride the idea of “bros” – men with certain stereotypically masculine traits, often including sports fandom, affinity for high fives and casual sexism. These boys fit most of those, but they’re enlightened bros. What makes the movie so unique is its effortlessly respectful, even worshipful view of female sexuality. It’s all about men taking very seriously their profession of titillating women of all types. There are scenes of dancing for women young and old, small and large, various races, and the women’s pleasure is always celebrated, never mocked.

These guys watch other men dance for women with a professional interest, admiring their craft, later discussing it with them, complimenting them, in some cases collaborating with them. It’s adorable. (On the other hand there is one big laugh from Dick Richie’s look of outrage on behalf of the artform when he peeks through the curtain at a TWILIGHT-themed routine that’s going over like gangbusters. I think that’s the only time they look down on anybody’s stripping.)

There’s a scene where they all end up in a living room with a group of older rich women who have been drinking wine all night and feel unappreciated by their husbands. Dick and Ken are off the clock but decide to use their professional skills to make these women feel beautiful and appreciated. Ken even surprises everybody by singing to one of them. Again, it’s an amazing scene because movies just don’t do this. Normally this scene would be played either as them taking advantage of the uptight old broads by rocking their world, or ha ha these guy’s’ll fuck anything that moves or something like that. But MAGIC MIKE XXL plays it as them sincerely using their talents to give these women well-earned pleasure and happiness.

When it comes to the dancing there’s a sense of joy of movement that brings Tatum back to his STEP UP roots. Of course these dances have more emphasis on six pack abs, dry humping, faces in crotches (and vice versa), and spraying of various liquids and foams to simulate ejaculation than the ones in STEP UP. This is definitely a movie designed to be enjoyed by people who appreciate looking at men, especially muscley shirtless ones, and I have to admit that my instinctive discomfort with that may have contributed to me not getting around to seeing this in a theater. But these guys set a good example by having no qualms about that shit, because they’re professionals. They even go to a gay club and spontaneously enter a dance competition just for a fun night, and there’s never a wince or a hesitation from any of them, even their non-dancer MC played by Gabriel Iglesias. They know who they are. They don’t give a fuck.

Anyway, one great scene has Mike in his workshop making furniture and he finds himself improvising a suggestive dance all over the equipment. He misses it. Once he’s back in the fold he encourages the others to put more of themselves into this last routine, so it becomes an act of personal expression with all of them contributing to the show using their individual talents and passions.

This could do for stripping what TOP GUN did for the Navy. I wonder if they had Chippendales recruiting tables in the theater lobbies.

During their journey they run into a couple different actors that I didn’t know were gonna be in the movie, so I won’t mention them, but it’s a good cast giving high level performances. In one scene, at a primarily black club where Mike used to dance as “White Chocolate,” a dancer comes out dressed just like him, and dancing just like him. I thought it was leading to Mike being upset that someone was biting his style, but then you see him smiling, and talking to the guy afterwards. I actually started to wonder if I imagined it that that guy was like the black Magic Mike, because nobody comments on it. But then in the finale they dance together, doing a mirror routine. Even better, his doppelganger is played by Stephen “Twitch” Boss, one of the stars of STEP UP 3-5 (the ones that Tatum isn’t in).

MAGIC MIKE was directed by Steven Soderbergh, who retired from directing movies shortly before XXL was made, so the job went to Greg Jacobs, Soderbergh’s first assistant director on over 20 movies starting with KING OF THE HILL. (Jacobs also directed the NINE QUEENS remake CRIMINAL and a ghost movie with Emily Blunt called WIND CHILL.) But it looks like a Soderbergh movie because guess who was director of photography and editor? Well, Peter Andrews and Mary Ann Bernard respectively, but both of those people are Steven Soderbergh. So here you got this comedy about male strippers and it looks gorgeous. There’s a scene that takes place on a beach at night, and Soderbergh shoots Tatum and Amber Heard in the dark with just a line of bonfire light reflecting along the edge of their faces, it’s spectacular. It seems like he got excited, he didn’t have to direct so he could really concentrate just on how to shoot it.

This is a funny, positive, enjoyable movie. There are no bad guys in it, not even opponents really, in fact I couldn’t remember by the end if there was even supposed to be a prize for winning the convention. Instead it’s about friendship and self expression and making women happy. I loved it.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015 at 12:29 pm and is filed under Comedy/Laffs, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

24 Responses to “Magic Mike XXL”

  1. I’m very happy to see you loved this, Vern!

    XXL and FURY ROAD are both elevating the cinematic arts this year, and hell, this decade for that matter.

  2. I don’t know that I’d heard anything about this – neither good nor bad. I did see the first one. I didn’t hate it or love it, but wasn’t going to expend any energy to see this one. Maybe I’ll have to change that.

    I would say that treating women with respect could just mean they’re good businessmen and know their audience. I was referring to the moviemakers, but that would go for the strippers, too. I shouldn’t be so cynical, though. Maybe they are just good people.

  3. This movie is like a disarmed Blade… no stakes. Surely they could add some scenes where a terrorist has hidden a nuclear bomb under the stage and it will explode unless they flawlessly execute their strip routine.

    This is one of my favourite movies of the year. Gorgeous looking and amazingly sex-positive. There’s something really endearing and infectiously joyful about how sincere these guys are about their simulated humping, with their carefully tilted baseball caps and relentless high-fiving. And Tatum is the Fred Astaire of dry humping. It’s also important to note that after deriding the TWILIGHT routine, they all admit that it’s a good idea and aren’t bitter about it at all.

    Maggie: I’d say the positivity towards women is too carefully woven into the film to be simple pandering. Either way the fact that it treats womens needs (sexual and otherwise) as something worthy of respect and attention is so rare it makes for an extremely refreshing watch. I’d say definitely see this one even if you were lukewarm on the first. As Vern mentioned, the first one was dragged down by a cliché drug addiction story, whereas this one is just pure uncut fun.

  4. AnimalRamirez1976

    November 3rd, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    This movie was great, but I have to admit that it came and went through my mind like a summer breeze – awesome for a second and then it’s gone. But if I may completely contradict myself, there were a few things that stuck with me. The first, second and third of these are Joe Fuckin Manganiello. He was amazing in this, and may never get another role this good again. What a comedian! “Some vampire bullshit…” Hilarious. Elizabeth Banks’ cameo was also great. I respect that fact they gave Amber Heard’s character a bunch of stupid looking tattoos, just like a woman that age would probably have.

    Why would Soderbergh work on this under a pseudonym if everyone knows that its him? Is this a form of humblebragging?

  5. @AnimalRamirez1976:
    I’m too lazy to fact-check, but I believe those are the nom de plumes that Soderbergh’s always used when he’s shot & cut his own movies. Kind of like how the Coen Bros do it. I’m assuming they just don’t want to go the Robert Rodriguez route, with their names plasted on every crew credit.

  6. AnimalRamirez1976: With his own movies, he thought his name would make a bigger impact if it was only on screen once, but guild rules wouldn’t allow him to go with “Directed, Photographed, and Edited by Steven Soderbergh.” For this one, I’m not sure — because that’s the way he’s done it before, I guess?

  7. Will you be reviewing SPECTRE, Vern?

  8. I love this movie – it’s my favorite of the year so far. In the first film Mike realizes he isn’t as in control of his stripper lifestyle as he imagines. This film has him return to take control of it and turn it into something positive. It really hilights what a toxic element Dallas was to the group. He ran the Kings Of Tampa as a cynical, self-centered enterprise and it infected the group. You see the remnants of that philosophy in Richie’s behavior at the beginning of the film (the way he shoots down the Froyo Truck at the campfire, etc). Mike comes at it from the complete opposite direction and it frees the group to express themselves (with the help of some molly).

    One of my favorite mini-arcs in the film belongs to Ken (Matt Bomer). (mild spoilers) At the hospital we get the reveal that he’s a Reiki healer, which is perfectly in line with all the new age stuff he’s into. Then he has that conversation with Andre in the car and you see him latch onto the idea of what they do as a form of “healing.” This culminates in that fantastic moment at the wine-party where Ken sings to the shy woman. He’s so pumped up about this new connection between his passions and his talents. He’s started looking at what he does in a new and different way and is excited to put it into practice. It’s so powerful because it’s a revelatory moment for the both of them.

  9. I saw it in a theater full of women on a weekday afternoon. Made me feel very inadequate.

  10. The Original Paul

    November 4th, 2015 at 4:18 am

    Fred – that’s kinda what I’m worried about. I’m trying to imagine “selling” this one to my (mostly male geek) friends. I mean, I like to think of myself as pretty secure in my masculinity – I went to see NEVER BEEN KISSED in the cinema! (Not recommended btw.) But this might be a step too far.

    Damn my masculine insecurity, preventing me from seeing good films in the cinema!

  11. I also went to see this in the cinema. Were only two guys in the whole cinema, which included me. The women looked at us as if we were intruding on their night. Still can’t say that this put me off the movie. Definately in my top five of the year. Loved it.

  12. I saw this at the theater after it had been out for a couple weeks. So while the theater was 70% empty, there was a group of about six on the “girls night out” tip, who were pretty drunk, very loud, and super obnoxious. Including one, who was “live tweeting” the experience. She was not only reading her own tweets aloud, but also the replies, and giving a constant update on how many “likes” she was acquiring.

    They were in their thirties (if not 40s) but acting worse than fucking teenagers. When I finally was like “hey, I don’t want to rain on your parade, but could you please cut the volume a little?” they retorted “What are you even doing in this movie? Why don’t you go see Jurassic Park?” Followed by my favorite, “God! People wonder why I just wait for Netflix…” as if I was the obnoxious theater-goer spoiling their good time.

    But I guess they had a point, what was I really expecting by going to see Magic Mike XXL in the theater?

  13. I saw it a couple times in theaters, but both were pretty sparsely attended, especially compared to the first film. Both screenings had a group of women attending as a girls-night-out kind of thing, but they weren’t as disruptive as what some of you have described. Mostly just ‘woo’-ing at the dances, which felt appropriate.

    I wish I could have seen this movie with a packed house, though. When the first one came out I saw it opening weekend and the theater was almost full. The feeling in the air of the screening room was palpable. It would have been awesome to see this one under similar circumstances, since this film better delivers on the party experience I think many were hoping for from the first one.

  14. I’ve been to one male strip show. It’s definitely not for me. I had a hard (no pun intended) time watching some of the scenes from the first movie. I don’t like drawing attention to myself in public. Once as a child I crawled under the table when the waiters sang happy birthday to me. I don’t do that any more, but the idea of some half naked, oiled up guy grinding on me in a room full of people could get me to crawl under a table again.

    It worked out okay for the one I attended because my friend was dating one of the strippers and she told the guys to not come over to me. It was so weird, though, because we were at a VFW Hall in Everett, WA, which if you don’t know the Seattle area, it’s a little ‘burb, a little country. I have no idea why there was a male strip show there, but the soccer moms and country girls sure liked it.

  15. Woo-ing and cheering would have enhanced my enjoyment. In fact, I was hoping for some of that. But the “Listen to what Linda tweeted back…” and “Eight more likes!!” was just fucking distracting and grating.

    But as I said, I was hoping for some rowdiness, I just got much more than I bargained for or desired.

  16. @jojo

    Over the last few years I’ve been finding older people are way worse than teens and kids when it comes to theater behavior. Whenever I take my mom to the movies I groan because, for the most part, she wants to see movies that attract an older audience and it is pretty common for the other older folk to talk and text and have phone conversations during the movie. Just last week I went to that double feature of the 1931 Dracula movies and my nephew and I were by far the youngest in there, along with one other guy, and while we were quiet all the older people giggled and heckled the movie throughout (they all bailed when the Spanish version came on though). Luckily I didn’t have this problem when I went to Magic Mike XXL which I really enjoyed.

  17. I also skipped this in the theater due to my discomfort, despite liking the first one, and actually working on set for a day (most of it was filmed in Savannah, GA). I actually got to see Soderbergh in action, as he was directing the unit on the day that I worked, just filming takes of a cab driving around different parts of Savannah. This was on “live” streets with nothing shut down, and actually not planned out at all. I was stuffed in the cab with four other guys, all of us stand-ins for the main actors. Yes, I wore the clothes of Big Dick Richie, and had to sit on the hump seat all damn day. Ha. I’ll watch this now that it’s probably in the Redbox.

  18. I mean, you’d think this might be a good place to meet available women with flexible schedules like mine, and show how cool I am coming to see a Magic Mike movie. But they weren’t interested in anything but beefcake.

    This is what women feel like when they go to Fast and Furious movies, isn’t it?

  19. I always wear a tie to the movies, figuring that any girl who wants to see whatever ludicrous crap I’m seeing so bad that she’ll go to a weekday matinee by herself is dream girl material and thus should meet me when I’m looking my best.

  20. The Original Paul

    November 4th, 2015 at 7:37 pm

    Maggie – I actually feel ya. Having an unexpected lap-dance was an intensely mortifying experience for me. I wasn’t even sure where I was supposed to look. I can see why some guys would find this arousing… I didn’t.

    It’s one of the many, many reasons why LOST IN TRANSLATION is to date my all-time favorite film. (In addition to the stunning cinematography, scoring, performances, emotional connection, etc.) Mostly when a character has a horror about sex workers* of any kind in cinema, it’s because they’re either a straitlaced repressed moralist or a deviant serial killer. Which sometimes comes off as seriously preachy, as well as monstrous. What I’m getting at is I can’t empathise with a character who thinks that all women are dirty and the voices in his head have told him to strangle as many of them as possible. I can, however, empathise with a guy who finds the experience of suddenly being confronted with a mostly-nude stripper to be horribly awkward. I’ve been that guy.

    (And I do apologise if I’m using the term “sex worker” too widely here. I’m not intending to offend anybody, I’m just not aware of a single catch-all term that includes everyone from strip-o-grams to prostitutes – basically anybody whose job it is to cause sexual arousal in a face-to-face setting. Obviously there’s a pretty wide berth between the many different “types” suggested there, legally and otherwise, and I’m not trying to suggest that they’re all the same.)

    Franchise Fred – Quite probably, although the FAST AND FURIOUS series has its own particular brand of weirdness when it comes to mixing overt sexual imagery and religious content – not in the same scene, but in the same film and featuring the same characters. Actually it’d probably be less weird and more hilarious if it was in the same scene: I’d like to see a mashup of all the slow-motion gyrating butts mixed in with all of the scenes of Vin and co., sitting down to say grace and thank God for friends, family, and fast cars. I have a feeling it would be very amusing indeed. (And I realise we’re talking about Hollywood action moviedom, which has a long history of occasionally-awkward religious interjections into often fairly brainless shoot-em-ups – that bit in ERASER where Arnie’s priest friend gives him God’s blessing to go apocalyptic on his enemies with duel-wielded plasma rifles still ranks up there as a particularly hilarious example – but even given that, the FAST AND FURIOUS franchise really likes pushing the boundaries!)

  21. His Logan Lucky movie looks pretty good but what’s up with Steven Soderbergh’s bullshit retirement nonsense?

  22. Mastor Troy (ex-convict Poeface)

    May 29th, 2017 at 4:54 pm

    He’s been talking to Jet Li’s publicist.

  23. I believe the Jet Li thing was a miscommunication. He said he was retiring from traditional wuxia films, not from acting. And to my knowledge, he hasn’t made a traditional wuxia film since.

  24. I believe the Soderbergh thing was a miscommunication as well. It was Matt Damon who said he was retiring. Soderbergh was a bit less certain about it than Damon. Mostly it sounded like he was just burnt out and wanted a break from movie making.

    “I’m interested in exploring another art form while I have the time and ability to do so,” he said. “I’ll be the first person to say if I can’t be any good at it and run out of money I’ll be back making another ‘Ocean’s’ movie.”

    Steven Soderbergh Hints at Switch to Television

    The Oscar-winning director says that after taking a break from show business, a transition to the small screen could be in the offing.

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