Take a Drink: whenever Joe Manganiello’s abs make you thirsty.
Take a Drink: whenever you are struck by how Channing Tatum is really a quite graceful dancer.
Take a Drink: whenever “Pony” comes on.
Do a Shot: for probably the best tribute to Duck Soup on record.
Finish Your Drink: whenever you want to! This movie is all about you feeling good, you sweet thing.
By: Sarah Shachat (Two Beers) –
The first Magic Mike surprised us all by being about things. Things that weren’t necessarily tied to the garish lights, shiny abs, and pulsing pop numbers of Tampa’s own Xquisite dance club. It tackled the toil of the Great Recession and the struggles of modern romance, showcasing not only Channing Tatum’s body but Steven Soderbergh’s equally sculpted editing style. It’s arguably the tipping point of the Maconaughaissance from oh, yeah, he was kind of good in The Lincoln Lawyer to no, but seriously, he’s doing excellent work. Magic Mike was fun, permissive and vibrant, but without being greasy or shallow. So, with this sequel then, in what direction does Mike Lane’s journey continue? Are there more lessons to be learned, more social issues which longtime Soderbergh AD Gregory Jacobs can explore through the lens of male stripping?
Eh, not really.
Magic Mike XXL is the man candy movie we all expected from the first entry, and all the more welcome as such. It unexpectedly joins company with Inside Out as a film that doesn’t truly have a Big Bad or a tumultuous low which the protagonist fights off to earn a happy ending. Mike’s main stated goal here is to make his girlfriend smile. The action is incidental, following Mike and his buddies on a road trip of friendship and dancing. If you want stakes of any sort besides beefstakes, um, you’re a bit out of luck here. But on balance, XXL‘s choice to just hang with the guys is the correct one. Having already grounded the Kings of Tampa in a world where joy is all too difficult to come by, Mike’s passion for dancing and his desire to recapture it becomes an outlet for the audience enjoyment as well. We don’t have to root for the guys to make it to their stripper convention on time or whatever. There isn’t a prize pot of money to be won. What we do get, however, is one of the best things movies can do. Magic Mike XXL gives us the proper setting and the correct amount of Michael Strahan to allow ourselves to just be happy for a little while. You know, assuming we’re not blinded by Joe Manganiello’s chest.
Magic Mike XXL, structurally and in overall effect, is reminiscent of an old Hollywood musical. The dance numbers are extremely well-choreographed and involving, and also the means by which our guys can fully express their authentic selves. Channing Tatum dances while welding – and by Fred Astaire’s top hat and spats, he sells the hell out of it. Not to say that there isn’t glorious XXL action in the middle of a gas station, or a rousing finale, but the more individualized numbers compliment the looser objectives and maintain enough variety to keep the film on pace.
The chemistry among the cast is what really makes the film work, though. Tatum is a warm and knowing and kinda guileless entertainer, consciously giving us the line delivery and the graceful movement we want to us like it’s our birthday.
Magic Mike remains relentlessly positive about sexual gratification for both men and women, which is wonderful. The inclusion of Jada Pinkett Smith’s southern mansion of satisfaction adds diversity and a positive photographic representation of blackness the movie was absolutely not bound to include. It’s a very welcome choice indeed. Pinkett-Smith almost steals the show out from under everyone – cast, crew, you and all your friends. It’s also fun seeing Amber Heard kinda just be herself, and Andie MacDowell and Elizabeth Banks show up and enjoy themselves. But if XXL has a fault, it’s that the actual relationships the guys have with the women they encounter feel very slight. As could the whole movie. If you’re not committed to enjoying yourself, the dances, the bros, the pecs, the late night car talks about how satisfying it is to satisfy other people – then this Magic Mike will feel very slight. The movie doesn’t necessarily offer enough depth to win over skeptics. The viewer has to come in willing.
On the terms Magic Mike XXL sets for itself, it is wildly successful. Every frame of this movie is about conveying the magic of friendship and the necessity of finding something you love and then doing that thing. It’s light and fun and utterly celebratory. It’s well built without ever feeling swoll. Embrace the abs, my friends. You know you want to.