Magic Mike XXL (2015)

07/05/2015  By  Ashley Herald     Comments Off

The first Magic Mike attracted attention not for its organic dialogue, powerful direction, and touching script, but for the same reason Fifty Shades of Grey did; surprise, I guess women like sex too. Much was made of women across the country turning out in droves to see attractive men dance and take off their clothes, and very little was discussed about the content of the film beyond that.

That’s not surprising, considering much of the marketing for the first film focused on the possibility of seeing Channing Tatum’s donger, in addition to the rest of his physique. If you skipped Magic Mike due to a lack of interest in seeing Channing’s Tatum, that was a mistake. Magic Mike the first was a slice-of-life script about a working-class man trying to make ends meet to pursue his simple and sweet dreams, to create and sell unique, hand-made furniture. Mike makes changes in his life and grows as a person, just another human being trying to navigate his way through our changing and demanding world. Magic Mike was a complete story, and not one in need of a sequel. A sequel would need to justify its own existence.

And that brings us to Magic Mike XXL, which is best described as the movie advertised in the marketing for Magic Mike. The thematic content, the realism of the first film is nowhere to be found in XXL. Presented separately, I’d assume that these were from different franchises if they didn’t share a name. Instead of a challenging examination of a thirty-year-old trying to work his life out, XXL is just absurd amounts of fun, more along the lines of a Step-Up movie, but with a little extra emotional weight.

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Nice shirt.

Mike Lane (Channing Tatum) walked away from his job as a stripper three years ago, finally starting his furniture business, and getting into a relationship with his gal of choice, Brooke. Now his business is thriving, but the Cock-rocking Kings of Tampa, his old crew, is finished, on one final road trip to the exotic dancing convention. Along the way they pick up a few friends to put together one last, big show.

Likely the first thing you’ll notice about Magic Mike XXL is that it has more or less completely abandoned the tone of the previous film. It even points this out, by sending Mike to a wake for an old friend, and switching it out for a pool party. You thought this movie was gonna be somber, with strippers and feeeeeelings? No sir, only fun allowed here. The screenplay was written by Reid Carolin, the same guy who did Magic Mike, but also the same fellow who did 22 Jump Street, and you can tell. The plot points have their moments, but they take a backseat to the laughs and the bonding and the dancing. The movie knows why you’re here, and it has no intention of disappointing you.

And it really doesn’t. This film is relentlessly positive, and wants you to walk out feeling that. Embrace who you are! Don’t let other people define you! Love honestly and openly and freely! When things go wrong, accept it, and keep pushing forward! In this sense, it’s a great sequel to the first, as its basis remains the same: Mike Lane is an essentially good guy, trying to figure out what to do with his life. The sequel reminds you that “figuring out what to do with your life” is an ongoing process, and even when something goes so wrong it can’t be fixed, you can still work your way past it.

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Happy Independence Day, folks.

This positivity extends to how women are treated. This movie loves ladies. Every color, shape, and size has a place in this audience; Magic Mike XXL even, in a roundabout sort of way, talks about how male exotic entertainers fill a niche in society, about how everything people do is in an effort to make a connection. Are these women lonely? Are they just looking to cut loose and have fun? Who can say? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that they’re here to make a connection, and the boys in our crew can give that to them.

This is all brought home by the sheer enthusiasm of the performers, and this casting job is phenomenal. Beyond some holdovers from the previous film, the addition of Donald Glover and Jada Pinkett (the latter apparently being Channing Tatum’s idea,) was brilliant, adding extra texture and depth beyond the tired “one last ride” scenario. Nothing ever gets too heavy in this film, but their addition adds an extra dimension to the idea that connections, past and present, make us who we are. The only tragedy is that while we get to know everyone a little, we don’t get to know them as much as we’d like.

Although this movie lacks the organic nature and realism and depth of the previous film, it doesn’t lack for heart. The dancing and the way it is shot is energetic and fantastic, it has more laughs and more indulgence, and will put a big, stupid grin on your face. It’s not as quality a film as Magic Mike, but it is every bit as memorable. Go have some fun this week, and buy a ticket to Magic Mike XXL.

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About Ashley Herald

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Ashley Herald is an avid lover of science and science fiction, sociology, cinema, and other things that start with an "s" sound. When not writing for Front Row Central they pursue graduate degrees. You can follow them on twitter: @ash_words