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As a straight male, I’m probably not supposed to like Magic Mike XXL as much as I did. Or maybe it’s just uncouth for me to talk about it aloud… to everyone I bump in to. When friends ask me which movie they are supposed to see this holiday weekend, the testosterone in me is supposed to point them toward Terminator: Genisys. But my heart remembers the hilarious scene of Joe Manganiello strip-teasing a Pepsi machine to try and make a convenience store clerk smile, and I know that Magic Mike XXL is the right recommendation.
I liked Steven Soderbergh’s surprise 2012 hit Magic Mike. Yes, it played to its obvious female audience with its titillating male-dance sequences. But in the process, Mike changed the way audiences (and critics) viewed Channing Tatum, who toiled in generic genre fare like The Eagle, Dear John and the underrated The Vow up until that point. Magic Mike showed off different tools in Tatum’s box (gross, ladies, clean it up). The sequel shifts gears and shows off even newer sides of both its leading man, his supporting crew, and the franchise, as a whole. Here are three reasons why Magic Mike XXL is different from its predecessor… and actually better.
It’s less serious, and much funnierSoderbergh’s capable of light romps (see: the Ocean series), but he rested a heavy hand on the melodramatic material in Magic Mike. The dance sequences were comically cathartic, but off stage, these men were dealing with serious issues. That’s not to say Magic Mike XXL lacks tension. It doesn’t. But the stakes of this road trip movie are far less severe, and so problems are meant to give these guys slightly more depth without ever slowing the movie down. Also, because the clique has been established I the first movie, the personalities of these actors are able to shine through, and their friendship leads to some extremely funny situations… and the subsequent reflections of the unusual lives that theses dudes lead.
It’s infused with a surprising amount of feminismGirl power? In Magic Mike XXL? You better believe it. The sequel doesn’t just cater to its female audience by showing them LENGTHY dance sequences with the impossibly fit Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello and Matt Bomer. It also goes out of its way to talk to the women in the audience through surprising voices. Replacing Matthew McConaughey as the larger-than-life scene stealer is Jada Pinkett Smith, whose character Rome owns a high-class brothel meant to satisfy the needs of her female clientele. Rome’s speeches in Magic Mike XXL could be packaged into a self-help book of female empowerment. But it’s not the only time Mike XXL makes excellent points about the way women should be treated, both in and out of the stript club. Take notes, gentlemen, and earn points later.
It bucks the sequel rut by delivering something totally differentSeveral sequels follow up a successful entry by taking the act on the road. But by travelling from Tampa to Myrtle Beach, Magic Mike XXL shines its light on Southeastern tourist spots that never get the pedastal in Hollywood movies. And they are shown for what they truly are: artificial beachside towns propped up by tourist dollars that balance sun, heat and often-sleazy thrills. Magic Mike XXL could have easily set up shop in the same Tampa strip club, and had its handsome leads dance through a carbon copy of the original film. Too many sequels do that. Instead, the sequel shakes up the formula, takes these guys out of their comfort zone, pits them against new characters (Michael Strahan and Elizabeth Banks are standouts), and produces something that is invigorating, entertaining and celebratory. If the Mike franchise can continue reinventing itself, multiple sequels aren’t just appreciated, they will be demanded.