SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!! If you have not seen the movie yet, you might want to wait to read this post.
Being a male stripper I think I am more qualified than most to do a review of Magic Mike XXL. I had no expectations for the movie, just the hope that it would at least be as good as the first one. In my opinion it was BETTER. Better for a lot of reasons that are philosophical, not just because of the plot. The dancing is amazing. So here is the plot: the remaining guys in the King of Tampa dupe Magic Mike into doing one more show at the Stripper Convention 2015. It's a bro road trip movie, and I can only compare it to "To Wong Foo Thanks For Everything", a 1995 road trip about Drag Queens who overcome obstacles, personally and emotionally, while headed to "Miss Gay America" or something like it. But essentially the plot is the same. Get from point A to point B and do an epic performance. Everything else is character driven sub-plot. Mike proposed to his girlfriend from the last movie (who I thought was a bitch) and she turned him down, which made him reconsider his dance career. The rest of the cast is struggling with their own personal issues. Matt Bomer steals the show with his body, voice, dance moves, and his hippie brogi (a bro who does yoga) character. If you want to go see a movie with a lot of eye candy, great dancing, and put a smile on your face - this is the movie to see. It is simple and I do not think they had any goal of making it more than what it is. Silliness. It's a very cute movie. It is way lighter than the first and has a sweetness to it that makes you fall in love with the guys.
Here is what some other critics have to say. Christopher Orr said in his review, "If anything, better than its predecessor: looser, funnier, stranger, and vastly more subversive, a buddy road comedy that unexpectedly evolves into a celebration of female desire."
Joe Morganstern said, "However discursive and repetitive the movie may be, it delivers the fantasy goods of formidable male bodies in motion, and ups the fantasy ante by making the men as sensitive, self-doubting and nurturing as they are virile."
Sean Burns said, "The movie's sunny generosity of spirit serves as a sneak-attack on conventional movie masculinity, ripping machismo away from toxic Wahlberg-ian Bro culture and offering a more evolved, inclusive concept of manhood.”
I totally agree with the above statements. This movie did some things that really impressed me on a philosophical level. I saw a redefining of masculinity and male sexuality for our time. Beyond simply watching a road trip movie, we go on a male bonding journey with the characters. A journey that shows men in a different light rather than traditional social stereotypes typically portrayed in film. They touch each other A LOT. Hug each other a lot. Show fragility, insecurity, vulnerability. They are not homophobic. And they elevate women to make them feel like "queens". They care about women; they are woman lovers. And state that they do what they do to make a woman feel special - that is an important theme in the film. Men appreciating women and treating them right. They dance. And at NO point in time do they do these things and not come off totally masculine and heterosexual. We know Matt is gay in real life but I swear to god even singing and dancing and pulling his pants down he was absolutely convincing as a straight character. This is great. These five extremely heterosexual, masculine, alpha male, sex gods, are just amazing entertainers and all-around decent guys. I mean come on, would anybody doubt Joe Manganello's sexuality or masculinity? There is a scene in which he is challenged to make a girl smile with his dance abilities, even though he is struggling with low self-esteem. There is an absolute "oh fuck this is the hottest man I have ever seen" moment when he is on the floor grinding and gyrating his hips. He looks up at her with a "come fuck me look" that is absolutely stunning. I am also glad that black male stripper culture was included in this movie. White and black male stripper style is very different and this film tried to bridge the gap. I cosign. Jada Pinkett is gorgeous in the movie and supplies us with an alpha female character that bridges the gender gap. She is Mike's equal and has the best female empowering lines in the movie. It is Jada's task to ask women if they want to be treated as queens and be appreciated. It is the guys’ task to follow through on that desire to do their performances. And they take their job seriously.
I am going to plot spoil again right now. The five guys in the beginning of the movie decide to stop off at a bar... a gay bar with drag queens and gay guys voguing. They decide to also vogue and win $400 in cash towards their trip. Wait a minute! Five straight alpha males decide to stop off at the gay bar for some drinks and entertainment. That is a first in cinema history. That straight men would be so comfortable with gay men that they would not act threatened at all by going to the bar. The scene seemed over the top and silly, but the message that it sends to us is really powerful. I was impressed. And in this way, the scene and the MM cast dancing in the gay pride parade last week, solidified they want the LGBT support for the film.
The last impressive thing Channing did in the movie was the final dance sequence. At the end all the guys get their moment in the sun doing their solo routines, except Mike. He does a duet with another guy. It is off the charts, but I was surprised he didn't take a solo spot. I'm guessing he thought he had his epic solo scene the first movie and wanted to make the movie more about an ensemble. And it is. It's not just about Mike this time. It is about him within the context of bonding with his bros. This was a great movie. I hope you support the message that comes through loud and clear - straight men today have been given permission by these guys to redefine masculinity in 2015.
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