Film Review: Magic Mike XXL

I have never seen stripping in real life, not from either gender, despite growing up at a time when young women seeing The Chippendales seemed to be something of an aspiration and Spearmint Rhino became commonplace in city centres, so let’s just say seeing the original Magic Mike was a bit of an eye opener. They really do that stuff to women at these shows? Do they? Blimey. They must get bruises.

Seeing Magic Mike XXL was on the back of concluding that Magic Mike itself was a mix of sparkling brilliance and being very boring, but that’s Steven Soderbergh for you.   What it did highlight was the glory of the Mcconaissance, with Matthew McConaughey in all his writhing pomp almost stealing the film and Channing Tatum showing that dancing as a “male entertainer”, his background in real life, does appear to be like riding a bike. It seems you just get back on and start pedalling.

McConaughey does not return for Magic Mike XXL, presumably because he took a acting job to cry in deep space somewhere, but as long a Tatum was back it really didn’t matter. I do feel that this second outing is the better for not having Soderbergh direct, with Gregory Jacobs at the helm. It does have those slightly tedious dialogue sequences again, the ones where people are talking like it’s supposed to be lifelike, but no-one really talks that way.  Soderbergh is very fond of these scenes and he has presumably included some as he is editor of the movie.  Still, the whole feel is quite different.

XXL is funny, slicker and has more depth. Scenes like Joe Manganiello as Richie trying to get a surly checkout girl to crack a smile are brilliant additions.   The dance sequences are also fabulous, particularly if Tatum is responsible.   I also really love the way the dancing is framed, with the whole body in view. This is reminiscent of the way classic Hollywood musicals feature choreography, something which modern movies often fail to replicate. No really. It’s not just stripping.

Channing Tatum is at his hottest in the movie and he makes it all look very easy. It may have been his former life, but it is credit to his acting skills to get so much in the zone to perform the way he does. I just kept thinking “Tatum is a young dad! He has a daughter!” His role as Mike really does give a whole new meaning to “Daddy’s got to go to work”.

The featuring of some fine female performances is a welcome addition, with Jada Pinkett Smith in a strong role as the owner of a members only strip club and MC to the final scenes, and a feisty cameo from Andie MacDowell who proves that she so much more than Cedar Cove, and I do love Cedar Cove.

Magic Mike XXL left me philosophical. It made me wonder if the shift to seeing so much male flesh on film is redressing decades of seeing half-naked women on both big and small screen. I could attempt to say something clever about body politics and all objectification, be it female or male, being demeaning, but I prefer to think of Magic Mike XXL in a different way. It’s simply art house, capturing something about culture that’s very real from the fringes of popular culture, almost bordering on fictionalised reportage. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Magic Mike XXL continues to be screened in cinemas.

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