FILM | Magic Mike XXL
The indulgent ecstasy created in the shameless fantasy of Magic Mike XXL puts Steven Soderbergh’s saucy-yet-gritty first instalment in the shade. The original was a sleeper hit for women and men; pelvic thrusts were balanced by a storyline that spoke to a recession-hit generation that wanted security in the bank account and the bedroom. The disapproving glances from the main love interest made male audiences comfortable watching men strip. Those glances said, “Being objectified is unmanly. Your dance moves are morally despicable, so are the women you entertain. You should have a steady job and a beer-belly”. But for MMXXL, Soderbergh’s directorial assistant, Gregory Jacobs, jumped into the saddle to deliver a superb encore, free from disapproving, uptight characters. Magic Mike XXL is what I wanted Magic Mike to be. Let’s have some fucking fun!
We discover that Mike Lane, aka Magic Mike, has been dropped by his dour girlfriend. His old dancing buddies are ready to hang up their thongs but not before one final bow-out at a male strippers convention. Mike comes along for the ride. A hilarious bromance road-trip ensues, climaxing at the convention. It’s not much of a plot, but who the fuck cares when you want Channing to come all over your Tatum?
This film is just for women. Attendance has been 96% female, and this is for a reason. Despite its campness, MMXXL doesn’t have much to say to gay men. It’s more about women’s dissatisfaction. But instead of two hours of complaining, we’re told that women enjoy sex, want to be worshipped and, what’s more, deserve it. All girls are catered for: from a woman of a certain age who’s told it’s still her day, to a woman of a certain size treated to simulated oral sex, MMXXL focuses on the issues – and fantasies – of all heterosexual women. However, don’t try taking your man to see this film to teach him about what women want.
I’ll tell you why.
I went with a guy so red-blooded he made Daniel Craig look quite girly. His only entertainment came not so much from Mr Tatum’s expert dance moves as the expression of glee plastered over my face throughout. Unfortunately this movie had the opposite effect of what I was hoping for. Instead of getting the message that I, as a woman, needed a man to exalt and pleasure me, this chap’s reaction was merely to ask whether he should spend more time pumping his pecs down at Virgin Active. No, you idiot – ask me what my fantasy is, listen and then throw me down onto a bed, tell me you love the taste of me and fuck me like I’m the sweetest peach you’ve ever had. That’s what Magic Mike would do.
And MMXXL is, indeed, pure fantasy. Part of this fantasy (and the movie’s fun) is letting its characters eat their cake and have it. One divorcee’s ex-husband didn’t appreciate her in the bedroom, but left her with a helluva stack of cash from the divorce. Now she can have her Adonis (Big Dick Richard) slide into her up to the hilt every night and enjoy financial independence. It’s one, long, never-ending cake party for that little lady.
But the film isn’t totally mindless. It speaks truths about the difference between men and women. The crush, Zoe, is trying to escape a life on the pole. Mike’s impression of an MC in a strip joint, “get your dollar bills out and let’s brighten up her day”, sums up why being a stripper with a vagina is no fun. Women need to be brought to the boil. They want a show, a circus, a fantasy. Male strippers have to be the whole, erm, package. Ever seen an interview with a Chippendale? Those guys are sweet, clever, funny and smoking hot. Male strippers get to twirl women around like batons and gyrate while their audience are in fits of hysterics, covering their guffawing laughs with their hands (which they don’t have to be asked to sit on). It’s fun to be the source of that much entertainment. Men’s needs, however, are more utilitarian. Women on stage are objectified in a way that they are not in control of. They don’t need to show personality or brains. And without those, you are an object that can only be ‘brightened up’ – with cash.
So why has MMXXL done so badly as compared with the first? My guess is that male critics are jealous that their equivalent, Showgirls, was a steaming pile of soiled thongs. Magic Mike XXL has emerged from a female utopian dream that is yet to exist. But I’m going back tonight… without the red-blooded male.
Magic Mike XXL (2015); Director: Gregory Jacobs; Running Time: 115 mins.