My expectations for Magic Mike XXL were low. After failing to finish its prequel, I thought, maybe I am superior to the joys of strippers.
Oh, how wrong I was.
When Magic Mike XXL ended, my friend and I couldn’t bear to leave. We remained frozen in our seats, collectively moaning. “Bring our boys back!”, we shouted. We left, determined to shout from rooftops, “Magic Mike is perfect! Everyone must see it!” My friend remarked, as we emerged from the theater in the humid city afternoon, “All of these people are living in a different world from us.” What’s it like, we wondered, to have not yet seen Magic Mike XXL?
It’s not that the plot is strong – it is practically nonexistent. Channing Tatum, as the eponymous Mike, is striving to grow his furniture company. At the casual behest of his old stripper cohorts, Richie (Joe Manganiello), Tarzan (Kevin Nash), Ken (Matt Borner), Tobias (Gabriel Iglesias) and Tito (Adam Rodriguez), the group is reunited and decides to take “one final ride” to the annual stripper convention in Myrtle Beach. Antics abound.
Magic Mike leaves you feeling warm inside. As the audience left, I noticed everyone was still grinning. It’s impossible not to enjoy. In fact, it’s easy to make the connection between this movie and Furious 7. The delight in both films is the characters, these charming, bantering, handsome fellas, doing what they’re good at – stripping and racing, respectively – and being wildly entertained. Fellas aside, however, I must say: Jada Pinkett Smith is absurdly wonderful in this movie as an ex-stripper, now queen, and should be praised as such.
The true surprise treat of Magic Mike, however, was the dose of female empowerment. The film showcases women of all colors, shapes, and sizes, and the male entertainers are equally observant of each one’s pleasure.
During a stop at a mansion in Charleston, the boys mingle with a group of women in their mid 40’s. A few of the ladies bemoan their status as divorcees, while one confides that her husband has never had sex with her with the lights on. Ken, unabashed, explains (while singing and dancing around her) that this woman must be praised. If she wants something, ask for it! If her husband won’t supply the demand, then leave, “because there’s a line of men waiting to worship you.”
Doesn’t sound bad, does it? I wouldn’t mind being worshipped. The emphasis on being appreciated remains throughout the film. We are worthy of being spoiled in attention and love. We should be asked: “how does it feel?” as Ken sings later, while pantomiming sexual favors on eager audience members. Men should make sure their partners are getting sexed as they please.
Sidestepping the heteronormative and vaguely patriarchal idea that women need men to feel valued, this seems like a fair rule. Appreciate your partner. Lavish them with love. Perform elaborate stripteases from time to time. Or, something.
Magic Mike XXL is indulgent, quick, and wildly fun. Although we didn’t want to leave – the audience was also newly prepared to inform partners of every one of their needs, sexual and otherwise.
Thanks, Channing Tatum.