I had the great joy to travel to the South Side to see Magic Mike XXL with my friend Dana (@toastismyjam on Twitter), and two friends of hers — who were utter delights. Before I get to my unsolicited review, I just want to tell you how lovely these women were.
First, they taught me a packing trip that may have changed my entire life. When packing for children, put an entire outfit in a ziploc bag for each day you are away OR roll up an entire outfit — pants, shirts, socks, underwear — and secure it with a rubber band. Harkening back to our Chicago trip, this would’ve made such a difference to daily organization.
Second, they thought I was much younger than I am, closer to their age (if my math is right, they are 11 years younger than I), and I could’ve kissed them both when I told them when I graduated from high school, and they were genuinely surprised. That is always a delight.
Okay, onto the show.
Magic Mike XXL was unadulterated joy. Unlike the first Magic Mike, XXL had no pretensions to art film. It was a buddy/road trip film full of buff bodies and tons of laughter. Although we get a Channing Tatum dance in the first 10 minutes, a very self-deprecating dance I might add, we don’t get nudity too quickly. Of course, the first ass we see is Joe Manganiello’s, so I can’t complain.
The story, such as it is, is told through little vignettes of the boys dancing their way at various locations up the coast on their way from Florida to Charleston, South Carolina. Dallas has absconded to China with The Kid; Brooke has decamped for other pastures; and while Mike has fulfilled his dream of starting his own business, he is struggling with the burdens of being his own boss. When Tarzan calls him out of the blue, Magic Mike XXL kicks into all its simplistic glory.
The male entertainers that are the former Kings of Tampa embark on a trip to a stripper convention, which if such a thing exists, I would like to attend someday. Minor drama ensues along the way — Ken and Mike need to work some things out (Matt Bomer is a revelation as an over-the-top spiritual dude); the boys talk about their futures after stripping; Tarzan waxes unexpectedly poignant in the living room of a Southern belle — Andie MacDowell in probably the only role I’ve liked her in since… ever. Aside: Andie MacDowell is kind of the Natalie Portman of her generation, IMO; the characters she plays don’t require much from her aside from looking pretty and pensive. She’s got surprisingly sharp bite in her little role here.
What Magic Mike XXL does best is show off the male physique to the hungry female gaze. It’s pretty fun. Tatum moves, as Dana says, “like water.” His fluid grace is matched in this film by Stephen Boss, who plays Malik. Magic Mike XXL shows every shade of skin and every female body type without comment. The “cameos” in the film are all great fun as well; Donald Glover is adorable, and Elizabeth Banks, as always, is a delight.
But, in my opinion, the movie belongs to Joe Manganiello as Big Dick Richie. His, er, great attribute is also his great burden. (I am saddened to report that we don’t even get a glimpse of Richie’s sidekick, unlike in Magic Mike.) Manganiello plays Richie like a big dummy with a surprisingly sweet and vulnerable side. The expression on his mobile face throughout XXL is baffled concentration to figure out what’s going on around him. His future is the most uncertain because he is, to his impressive core, a male entertainer. Tatum may move like water, but Manganiello muscles his way through his routines. Quite literally. His Christian Gray turn in his closing routine, set to Nine Inch Nails’ “Animal” is… wow.
*whew* I gotta take a minute.
Manganiello also has THE BEST scene in the movie, in the convenience store. I’m not sure how it plays out of context — context is important to this scene, actually — but it had me literally cheering for Richie. By the end of the movie, I wanted to start throwing dollar bills at the screen.
Magic Mike XXL is not the nuanced look at female desire that the original film was. It is much more straightforward, a full on romp.
And I may never look at cookies the same way again.
Have you seen it? What did you think?