“Magic Mike XXL” is in many ways a pretty enjoyable movie. Channing Tatum, despite seeming to be physically imposing, moves in a manner that belies his size and makes him seem really personable–more so than I am accustomed to seeing him–and the whole cast seemed to be having a good time, which shows.
And for some that’s all they want from a movie, so it works on that level.
That being said, it’s almost surreal how unreal the movie feels. I’m accustomed to movies revolving around strippers (or any other field so pornography-adjacent) to have some sort of an edge, and not to feel like it’s suffering from a serious case of Disneyfication.
What I would have liked to have seen would have been somewhat evocative of Times Square before all the peepshows and porno theaters were gentrified out of existence; a portrayal of slightly damaged people, overcoming the odds.
But that’s not what we get here, mainly because one of the things Magic Mike XXL lacks is any sense of threat, of danger, which typically goes hand-in-hand with sexiness. Here it’s all about the tease, which is nothing if not frustrating (though it didn’t appear to bother the woman sitting next to me, who was REALLY into it).
In Mike’s world all the men are either strong, confident, witty, capable, agile, philosophical or really good singers (sometimes embodying all of those characteristics in one individual, if Ken (Matt Bomer) or Mike (Tatum) are any indication.
This one-dimensionality of virtually every character in the movie doesn’t make it less enjoyable, but it does turn it into some sort of urban fairy tale because you can tell from the first frame to the last that everyone is going to do just ducky.
The only real source on tension in the movie, Mike’s furniture business eventually failing, is pretty much abandoned as soon as its served its purpose, which is to unite him with his former troupe.
In fact, the whole movie would have been much more satisfying if it were a fever-dream–which would explain the almost relentless optimism–Mike was undergoing as the result of a drug-induced bender.
It’s so wholesome that it makes stripping feel like the type of job high school guidance counselors should recommend to their students. And speaking of high school, the entire movie plays like a slightly racier–only ‘slightly’ because despite what the commercials and trailers may imply, there have been explicit shows on network television–version of “Remember The Titans,” if you replaced football with with stripping and removed the attention played to racial issues, as opposed to a movie like “American Gigolo (which is a bit of a pity because it could have used some of Gigolo’s smuttiness)”.
Though the greatest surprise for me was Jada Pinkett Smith, who so embodied Rome (her character’s name, not the former empire) that she was at times virtually unrecognizable (when she first came on screen I literally wasn’t sure from one moment to the next if it was her. It was a little disconcerting, while being pretty impressive at the same time because I have seen performances from much ‘bigger’ actors who can’t seem to disappear into their roles).
At the preview showing I attended the audience was primarily female–which was not nearly as enjoyable as it first sounds. Often people were laughing and cheering for reasons that I didn’t quite get, though I assume it had something to do with them having seen the first movie, which I haven’t.
And speaking of not having seen Magic Mike, I get the feeling that there weren’t many black people in it because the sequel feels like the producers are somehow making up for lost ground.
Though, when all is said and done, Magic Mike XXL is a decent movie that’s entertaining enough for men, though probably more interesting to women. It’s a pit that there’s so little of substance about it, though I suspect given the fact that there’s nothing else out quite like it at the moment will give it a bit of box office Viagra.