THOUGHTS ON: ‘Magic Mike XXL’ (2015)

Let’s be clear, this is NOT a review of Magic Mike XXL, just some observations.  I’m probably not exactly qualified to review it—I’ll admit that I didn’t care to see the movie, it was just on where I happened to be, and I didn’t start paying attention until about a reel in, when I started noticing some of the things I’ll be talking about shortly.  (Also, the first film wasn’t that good and I didn’t really remember anything about it except for Olivia Munn being hilarious, as Olivia Munn usually is.)

With that out of the way, here’s the first thing I noticed: everyone in Mike’s entourage has exactly one defining feature to distinguish him from everybody else.  One is a New Age guru who meditates and practices reiki, one (allegedly) has a penis so big women would rather stick with handjobs than ride the pony, one is oh-so-very-old (at least by stripper standards), one makes fro-yo, and one is overweight—a small head-nod to the fact that some men don’t look like shiny, coin-operated Ken dolls.  (They aren’t even distinguishable enough for me to recall any of their names less than 24 hours after viewing.)  Mike is just as one-dimensional as the rest, unless you recall the first film and bring your knowledge of it to this one, which I couldn’t.

I have no way of knowing if the producers of Magic Mike XXL did any focus group testing or demographic research after the first film, but the most notable aspect of the film is how exact everything is.  What I mean by that is, literally every single feature of Magic Mike XXL seems tailor-made for (what the studio thinks is) the first movie’s core audience.  Every character, every joke, every grind, every thong and pouch that precisely hides a penis.  Not one facet of the movie is in any way naturalistic; it is a very deliberately constructed fantasy picture.

Consider the scene in the convenience store.  All the guys have been rolling, and they egg Big Dick into going into the shop and dancing for the cashier.  When he enters, she ignores him.  He goes in, rips open a bag of Cheetos as seductively as any human being could possibly perform that action, mimics ejaculation and douses himself with a bottle of Dasani, and grinds on the tile floor, all to your favourite boy band song.  The entire time, she stares at him blankly, until he finally slides up to the counter, asking, ‘How much for the Cheetos and water?’  Then she smiles.

In the entire history of the human race, from our tentative steps out of the primordial soup to our lives under the United States’ first black president, this has never happened.  It’s been written about, surely, in books with Fabio’s nipples on the cover.  Halfway through this scene, any sane woman would be screaming, ‘Dude, you’re making a mess!  I’m here alone and have to clean this shit up!  Are you a sexual predator?  I’m calling the police!’

Or consider the scene with Andie McDowell.  She is having a small hen party with her friends, who are all old (by Hollywood standards).  One of her friends laments that her husband has never fucked her with the lights on.  Reiki Man steps up: ‘He’s just not showing you how beautiful you are!’  Not just her thin, perfectly made-up, meticulously-groomed frame, but her insides, her energy.    Insist on making him show you you’re beautiful, he says, before serenading her with Bryan Adams’s ‘Heaven.’  There are so many audience surrogates in this film, I had to stop counting after twenty-one.  Wink.

The film is basically structureless.  There’s the introduction of a goal: get to the strippers’ convention in Myrtle Beach, to perform as a group one last time.  There’s a climax: namely, the performing of the strip show in Myrtle Beach.  The movie between Point A and Point B is essentially flat.  One scene follows another, and there is no buildup, no rising action, no conflict.  Keep in mind, I’m not criticising this; I just find it remarkable for a major studio picture.  There is one (lame) attempt to give it some through-line by giving Mike a love interest in the character of Female Love Interest (I’m sure that was her name!), but she’s pretty boring and expendable.  She figures into the climactic strip show, but no one cares, and there are no stakes.

Magic Mike XXL prominently features exactly two types of female body: 1) thin, perfectly made-up, meticulously-groomed Maxim-ready types and 2) larger-butshy-of-obese, perfectly made-up, meticulously-groomed Radiance-ready types.  The only female character I can recall who doesn’t fall precisely into one of these two types is the clerk at the convenience store, who is somewhere in-between.  This distinction between specific body types is so unambiguous it cannot be unintentional.

It goes without saying that the overweight man does not perform at the final, climactic strip show.  It was never even on the table; the plan was for him to emcee.  He doesn’t though, Jada Pinkett Smith does… and wow.  If Joel Grey can win an Oscar as the emcee in Cabaret, Jada Pinkett Smith could have at least scored a nomination for what she does in XXL.  She blows everyone else out of the water, completely running away with the film.  She has more screen presence than all the other actors in this movie combined.  This is revelatory.  Can we please get a movie about just her character?

Overall, let me suggest that this flick is the anti-Everybody Wants Some!!—most things happening on screen are, well, pretty gay, but it’s all played with a straight face.  I guess I’m saying that if Everybody Wants Some!! is ‘accidentally gay,’ then Magic Mike XXL is the most on-purpose heterosexual movie anyone has ever made.  This is true even when the characters dance at a drag show.

Okay flick, 4/7, would watch again.

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