Review – Magic Mike XXL

Poster for 2015 dramedy Magic Mike XXL

Genre: Drama
Certificate: 15
UK Release Date: 3rd July 2015
Runtime: 115 minutes
Director: Gregory Jacobs
Writer: Reid Carolin
Starring: Channing Tatum, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Amber Heard, Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, Kevin Nash, Donald Glover, Andie MacDowell, Adam Rodriguez 
Synopsis: The boys unite for one last ride as they go on a road trip to a stripper convention in South Carolina.

 

 

A few years ago, critics went wild for Steven Soderbergh’s introspective drama Magic Mike, which focused on a troupe of male strippers and the dark side of their profession. Despite promising a titillating ride, the film was more interested in what lay beyond the abs and suffered as a result. Directed by Soderbergh’s regular producer Gregory Jacobs, Magic Mike XXL has no issues with revelling in the male bodies at its centre.

Years after walking away from the stripping world, Mike (Channing Tatum) is seduced back into the world by Tarzan (Kevin Nash). Led by Richie (Joe Manganiello), the gang are on their way to a convention in Myrtle Beach as one last hoorah. On the way to the convention, Mike enlists cool MC Rome (Jada Pinkett-Smith) and meets a flirty photographer (Amber Heard).

It feels wrong to subject Magic Mike XXL to the standard criteria of film criticism, because it’s a film that serves a specific purpose – that of a stripping show with a narrative. The plot is a basic device, used only to propel the impossibly beautiful male cast from one scantily clad set piece to the next.

| "These girls have to deal with men in their lives who, every day, they don’t listen to them."

It’s a mark of the sorry state of Hollywood gender politics that the celebration of female heterosexuality at the centre of Magic Mike XXL feels novel. The film’s central characters are entirely driven by a desire to satisfy and fulfil the fantasies of the women they serve – women who are both old and young, skinny and overweight, white and black. More than any major film release in recent memory, Magic Mike XXL acknowledges that women have sexual desires and that cinema can fulfil them.

The change in tone from first film to sequel is also entirely clear from the very start of Magic Mike XXL. Whilst Soderbergh’s original was about the darkness behind the dancing, this one is about the visceral pleasure the dancers can elicit in their clients. As Manganiello’s character so often protests, they are “male entertainers” not strippers. If Soderbergh’s movie was about strippers, Jacobs’ focus is squarely on male entertainers.

It’s true that Magic Mike XXL’s constant focus on noisy stripping showcases becomes wearisome at times and the characters are barely thumbnail sketches, but that feels like nothing more than critical nit-picking. This film is not about narrative complexity – it’s about washboard stomachs, impossible biceps, pelvic thrusting… and whipped cream.

| "We gonna see if he still got some magic in that Mike."

It helps that the cast are extraordinarily game and clearly having a ball in their roles. Tatum grinds and gyrates with impressive skill and Manganiello contributes a terrifically amusing dance in a gas station kiosk. Even the less athletically gifted members of the ensemble, such as Nash and the sweetly charming Donald Glover, get their chance to shine and entertain.

Despite failing in a number of filmmaking departments, Magic Mike XXL conjures a unique atmosphere for a major film release. Rather than the lads’ holiday vibe of much of the Hollywood firmament, this feels more like a boozy hen night. And that’s a damn good thing.

 

Pop or Poop?

Rating: Pop!

Magic Mike XXL has major flaws from a filmmaking perspective, with paper-thin characterisation and a plot that couldn’t be more simple.

However, it deserves to be commended for its refreshing approach to sexuality on the big screen. I can’t think of another major film that foregrounds female sexuality so openly.

For that alone, Magic Mike XXL is worth your time.

 

Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.

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