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David Poland

By David Poland

Review-ish: Magic Mike XXL


The reason I don’t feel that a fuller review is needed here is… come on… it’s Magic Mike XXL. Nothing hidden (unlike the first one, which snuck a pretty damned good Steven Soderbergh movie in over the G-string party).

Though I gather that Soderbergh cracked wise on the set from behind the camera (a lot) and he/she cut it, this is director Gregory Jacobs’ and writer Reid Carolin’s movie, combined with indulging the returning cast’s urge for more screen and character time.

The movie is not as serious, but it’s more fun than the original. And the traces of why are all over. Channing Tatum is Channing Tatum… funny, gentle, hunky, and dancing his ass off. But the first revelations of the film are in the supporting cast, where Matt Bomer really has his best big screen role ever and delivers. Joe Manganiello offers his most relaxed, most Joe performance ever, allowing a twinkle in his eye at time when he is not just talking about the size of his manhood. And as they tease Kevin Nash for not being able to dance, they could have teased him for not being able to act… but he threads the needle here, toning it down and bringing a lot more to the film than his comic book physical frame. Nice expansion of Adam Rodriguez’s status and Gabrielle Iglesias gets his laughs.

And then there is… Jada.

McConaughey was irreplaceable. Not only the great performance, but the odd status as Mr. Beautiful and Mr. Serious Actor all blowing up around the same time and McConaughey, who never really burned, but still rising like a phoenix. Everything about this worked for and with him.

But Jada, in a different way, is in a similar place. More famous in recent years as a parent and wife, it wasn’t clear who she was as an actress lately. And this performance answers all those questions. Sexy as hell, mature without apology, smart, sassy, smarter than the boys, managing her character’s emotions in clever ways, she is a show stealer.

The film is a parade of dichotomies. It is sexist in a hundred ways, as will be argued on social media. But it also likes women. The film objectifies men. But the men are high on being objectified. In some ways, some of the stripping stuff is aggressive to the point of assault. But everyone is smiling and happy.

I don’t know how to parse all of this. And as a white male, no one really wants to read me parsing it.

Should having Channing Tatum’s crotch stuck in her face and his head rubbed against her vulva be enough to turn Amber Heard’s frown upside down? I don’t know… but outside of her beauty and Kristen-Stewart-esque ambivalence, we don’t get much more from the character.

Is a penis too large for most women what Andie MacDowell’s character should aspire to in her 50s? You tell me. (I would likely get blasted by feminists for either answer… or trying to answer the question at all.)

Is the subtext of Kelly & Michael that the women who watch really want Strahan to rub them? If not, it may be from now on.

The film is very into racial balance, if not gender balance. Not only a strong black woman with a meaty part as a powerful figure, but a nearly black-only night club, a decent amount of racial balance at The Big Show, and balance of people of color (five of 10 characters, by my count) in the performing crew. Huzzah.

All I really know is that everyone seems to be having a good time on screen and We are having a good time watching them.

And anyone who isn’t having a good time really shouldn’t be in the theater… you knew you weren’t good with it before you got your ticket.

The structure of the film is simple… road trip comedy for two-thirds, giant strip event for one-third. I don’t have a great need to see men strip… but the inventiveness of the distinct sequences—Rob Marshall will be envious—makes it fun. The variety of women pulled into participating is one of those things in this film where you can see a bit of self-awareness. (There is a young lady running around in a bikini and a helmet at one point in the film that should be forever remembered as one of the film’s great non-sequiturs.) But I got over that.

Ultimately Magic Mike XXL is, I think, what a lot of people expected Magic Mike to be when it came out. And I’m pretty sure there’s nothing wrong with that.

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7 Responses to “Review-ish: Magic Mike XXL”

  1. cadavra says:

    FTR, Jada spent this past year as the seductively evil Fish Mooney on GOTHAM, and is a solid Emmy contender. And it hasn’t been that long since she spent three years as a no-nonsense nurse on HAWTHORNE. I understand having a small child can cut into one’s TV time, but she’s been keeping pretty busy all along.

  2. Geoff says:

    You took the words RIGHT out of my mouth, Cadrava – Gotham overall is a pretty mediocre show, but she is fantastic on it….you really think of the all wacky stuff they have her character doing and she makes you buy all of it. Seeing her chew more scenery is one reason I want to see MMXXL.

  3. Pete B says:

    Wow. These are the only positive comments I have ever seen regarding Jada on Gotham. Most other folks are less than favorable about her over-the-top performance.

  4. Bulldog68 says:

    I third Jada’s performance on Gotham for what it’s worth. The relationship between her and Penguin is one of the most interesting on TV. And boy does she digest the scenery.

  5. movieman says:

    I actually thought “MM XXL” was kind of brilliant.
    In its total disregard for conventional narrative, it’s the male stripper movie that John Cassavetes never made. (Think about it.)
    And yes, JPS (who I never thought much of to be perfectly honest) is flat-out terrific. (“Mature without apology:” perfectly stated, Dave.)
    But I also very much liked Heard (another actress who’s never impressed me in the slightest), MacDowell and, naturally, all of the guys, even Bomer who I previously thought was mostly hype. (Yes, I’m including his weight-loss-to-awards-victory in “The Normal Heart.”)
    I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think I might love “Magic Mike XXL” more than “Magic Max: Fury Road.”

  6. Bulldog68 says:

    “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think I might love “Magic Mike XXL” more than “Magic Max: Fury Road.”

    Okay folks. He’s done. Time to put him down. 🙂

  7. davemth says:

    Robin Lord Taylor aka Penguin, is the best thing on Gotham. Even Jada said so.

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“But okay, I promise you now that if I ever retire again, I’m going to ensure that I can’t walk it back. I’ll post a series of the most disgusting, offensive, outrageous statements you can ever imagine. That way it will be impossible for me to ever be employed again. No one is going to take my calls. No one is going to want to be seen with me. Oh, it will be scorched earth. I will have torched everything. I’m going to flame out in the most legendary fashion.”
~ Steven Soderbergh

I feel strongly connected to young cinephile culture. The thing about filmmaking—and cinephilia—is that you can’t keep hanging out with your own age group as you get older. They drop off, move somewhere. You can’t put together a crew of sixty-somethings. It’s the same for cinephilia: my original set of cinephile friends are watching DVDs at home or delving into 1958 episodes of ‘Gunsmoke,’ something like that. The people who are out there tend to be young, and I happen to be doing the same thing still, so it’s natural that I move in their circles.

In terms of the filmmaking, there was a gear shift: my first movies focused on people around my age, and I followed them for three films. Until The Unspeakable Act, I was using the same actors, not because of an affinity for people at a specific age, but because of my affinity for the actors. I like to work with actors a second time, especially if I don’t feel confident casting a new film. But The Unspeakable Act was a different script, and I had to cast all new people. Even for the older roles, I couldn’t get the people I’d worked with before. But when it was over, the same thing happened: I wanted to work with Tallie again in the worst way, and I started the process all over again.

I think Rohmer did something similar around the time of Perceval and Catherine de HeilbronnHe developed new groups of people that he liked to work with. These gear shifts are natural. Even if you want to follow certain actors to the end of their life (which I kind of do) the variety of ideas that you generate makes it necessary to change. And once you’ve made the change, you’ve got all these new people around.”
~ Dan Sallitt