MAGIC MIKE XXL
* (out of 5)
July 1, 2015
Channing Tatum as MIKE
Matt Bomer as KEN
Joe Manganiello as BIG DICK RICHIE
Kevin Nash as TARZAN
Adam Rodriguez as TITO
Gabriel Iglesias as TOBIAS
Andie MacDowell as NANCY
Amber Heard as ZOE
Jada Pinkett Smith as ROME
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: Gregory Jacobs
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I am not the target market for “Magic Mike XXL” (or the original “Magic Mike,” either, for that matter). Let’s just get that out there from the start. However, when it comes to the audience heading out to see “Magic Mike XXL,” the story, character, acting, writing or general internal logic are all irrelevant. The biggest reason most of the audience will be seeing “Magic Mike XXL” is to see a bunch of sweaty guys without their shirts on.
In that respect, you’ll get exactly what you’d expect from “Magic Mike XXL.” However, even then, the movie is disappointing.
“Magic Mike XXL” takes off three years after the events of the first film. Mike (Channing Tatum) is making a living constructing custom furniture in Tampa. However, he is unexpectedly pulled back into the world of male entertainment when his old crew convinces him to join the for one last big show at a stripper convention in Myrtle Beach.
And that’s about it when it comes to story. While I wasn’t a fan of the story in the first “Magic Mike,” I understood that plenty of people actually liked it, appreciating the down-to-earth struggle and character development of a man trying to better his life and career. That was the touch of Steven Soderbergh.
However, in this film, any semblance of actual story and character development is tossed out the window. Instead, we’re left with a whisper-thin plot that amounts to little more than a male entertainer version of a Judy Garland / Mickey Rooney vehicle about them trying to put on a big show. Sure, a new girl is introduced to catch Mike’s eye (played by the Amber Heard this time around, a huge step up from the lifeless and dull Cody Horn from the last film). However, the relationship just goes through the motions and recycles the somewhat offensive old stand-by that a lesbian can be turned back onto guys if she just finds the one who really, really turns her own.
But that’s not why most of the people seeing this movie are seeing this movie. On to the greater question of whether “Magic Mike XXL” delivers the male stripper fantasy.
I guess… but even then, not as much. Sure, the dance sequences are more elaborate and involve more person-to-person contact. However, they range from the mundane (because a simple Google Image search will yield plenty of shirtless and often more revealing Channing Tatum pictures) to the truly bizarre (like a scrawny Donald Glover improvising a rap serenade to a recent divorcee).
So while there are more dance numbers (which makes sense because there’s less plot to fill in that pesky running time), and they certainly are on a grander scale, they’re uninspired. I understand the female (or gay male) fantasy element to this film, and there is the whole community aspect that women have at strip clubs. The film certainly allows them to have that experience without actually visiting a club. I get that. Also, some of the stars like Matt Bomer certainly reveal more than I remember in the first film. However, things just get silly at times. Just because Jada Pinkett-Smith declares that you are being “worshipped” by these strippers doesn’t actually make it the case.
In fact, as I watched this movie and reflected upon the other big female fantasy movie of 2015 – “Fifty Shades of Grey” – I had to wonder what the hell is wrong with the women seeing these movies. It’s not that I don’t understand how fantasy works or how objectification works. After all, men have been objectifying women in movies for more than a century.
However, objectification alone isn’t enough to sustain a film. That’s why the two most famous movies about female strippers – “Showgirls” and “Striptease” – are notorious bombs. This may be unpopular to say, but if women are so much more enlightened than men, then why does it only take a couple guys without their shirts on to make them drop their money at the box office?
So what does it say about the psychology of the target audience of this film – or that of the target audience of “Fifty Shades of Grey”? A pretty face and a hot body are the most important thing, is what it says. No amount of abuse, narcissism, piggish behavior, mean-spiritedness and emotional manipulation is wrong as long as you look like the characters in these films.
And that’s what strikes at the heart of “Magic Mike XXL.” All the characters are assholes. Well, Mike is okay, but certainly all the other characters are assholes. They’re damaged, self-destructive and bitter to the world. Sure, they wear the mask of an experienced entertainer by knowing the right things to say to make the person with the money feel special, but so does pretty much any stripper on the planet (and some of them are as mean as snakes). Still, beyond the most animalistic urge of sexual attraction, I wouldn’t choose to spend time with any of these people, on or off screen. However, it seems to the target audience, if you rock a rippling six-pack, you can suddenly be the hero.
Sorry, ladies. If that kind of nonsense doesn’t work for female characters in a Michael Bay movie, it doesn’t work for the male characters in a movie like this. You don’t get to achieve equality by being as shallow and ugly as your male counterparts. I find movies about awful characters awful. It doesn’t matter what sex they are or if they look good without a shirt on. Awful characters are simply awful.
And “Magic Mike XXL” is as awful as it comes.