Last Wednesday saw the release of Magic Mike XXL, the follow up to Steven Soderberg’s 2012 film. Rather than review the film on traditional merits, Deadshirters Haley Winters and Max Robinson decided to evaluate it on its most important metric: Hunkiness. Spoilers below.
Max: Magic Mike XXL really distinguishes itself in a summer full of sequels with an unquestionably pronounced Hunk Factor.
Haley: I think it’s worth noting that, during the Magic Mike off-season, Joe Mangianelli (a.k.a. Big Dick Richie) directed a documentary about the “real” lives of male strippers. It’s called La Bare.
Max: This movie is basically The Dark Knight Returns but, instead of an older and aimless Bruce Wayne becoming Batman again, it’s a disillusioned-with-the-American-Dream Mike Lane (comedy golem Channing Tatum) becoming Magic Mike once more for one last big score strip with his old pals. This is an entire movie of beefcake-y guys being super vulnerable and supportive of each other; and I loved it.
Haley: These guys have big, bulgy, veiny hearts, and the magic of Magic Mike XXL comes from the unabashed way it lets its men be gigantic adorable mushes. The comradery between the gang is so authentic and feels so lived-in that it makes the guys from Entourage look like freshman dorm hallmates.
Max: This is whatever the philosophical counterpoint to the Entourage movie is. Magic Mike XXL is a very sweet and genuine movie about the trials and tribulations of a group of male strippers. It’s like if Homer’s The Odyssey and S.T.R.I.P.E.S. had a baby, and that baby emerged from the womb with a huge boner. Let’s breakdown the crew:
- Magic Mike (Tatum): The Leader.
- Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello): Aggro semi-rival to Mike, but, at his core, a man haunted by his enormous dick and the women who cannot deal with it.
- Ken (Matt Bomer): The babyface. Special ability: Healing.
- Tarzan (former WWE star Kevin Nash): Slab of beef jerky. Special ability: +2 Art skills.
- Tito (Adam Rodriguez): He wants to quit the stripper life and sell fro-yo from a van.
- Andre (Donald Glover): Childish Gamboner.
- Tobias (Gabriel Iglesias): Sidelined for most of the movie after getting a concussion.
- Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith): Runs a haunted mansion strip club in Savannah, brought in to replace Tobias. Says “queen” approximately fifty times.
Haley: Don’t forget Twitch (whose real name, I just Googled, is Stephen Boss), the old So You Think You Can Dance? hip-hop prodigy who shows up in literally every movie that requires a dance move. Not only was his early solo spotlight one of my favorite dances of the film, but he managed to steal away with sharing the final, climactic strip show with the Chan Man.
Max: If the first Magic Mike was The Terminator, then this was T2: Judgement Day in terms of how it streamlines the original Magic Mike premise into something that’s completely satisfying on a visceral level. It’s a sports movie, a heist movie, and a road trip movie all at once. I feel like cutting some of the heavier elements of the original movie really paid off here.
Haley: Maybe I’m still high from the other Movie of the Summer (between these two we might as well call it a day and pack up for September already), but I almost felt like the plotting of Mike had a bit of a Mad Max quality to it. Just a literal, linear trip from Point A to Point B, with plenty of stops along the way to show off its particular talents: in this case, the writhing, chiseled bodies of its hunks.
Max: Like Fury Road, this movie has some really intriguing and impressive ideas about gender relationships. It is woman-positive, but is it feminist? I don’t know. The focus on women and pleasing women is really interesting, and I like how it’s laid out in a very direct, realistic way. Mike’s flirtation with the Amber Heard character is never fully realized, but it’s predicated on the respect and support he shows her. Rome is probably the most fleshed-out female character in the movie, and she’s basically some kind of Stripper Yoda.
Haley: I didn’t really know what to make of the movie’s insistent focus on the pleasure of and service to women, but it was sort of lovely. I don’t think you could call it feminism, but it was certainly very eager and felt sincere enough. The entire movie can be broken down into scenes in which men give themselves over entirely to, as Jada would put it, the worship of queens. There was the stripping, of course—extensive and effusive, a sugar rush of male objectification that I was all thumbs-up about.
But there was also the sensitive freestyling of Glover, the “because you’re worth it” hum of Rome’s pleasure-castle, and the way in which all the men poured their heart and souls into making a group of middle-aged women feel vital again. And the scene of the year, of course, in which the boys cheer Richie on as he dances lewdly and hilariously in a gas station to the Backstreet Boys, with only the aim of brightening a sullen girl’s day.
Max: That scene is where I think I was completely on board with this movie. Tatum psyching him up on while on MDMA, and then the beautiful button line when Richie asks, “How much for the Cheetos and water?” I loved it.
Music cues in this movie were super on point: The Backstreet Boys song coming on and giving Mangianello the confidence to do his routine in the mini-mart was a thing of beauty. “Pony” coming on and reigniting Tatum’s stripper heart while he’s welding was also perfect.
Haley: R. Kelly’s “Cookie” over the last routine had me laid the fuck out. The fact that the line “I’m a cookie guy” turned into the major payoff of the movie was so unexpected and delightful.
Max: Magic Mike approaches stripping routines like a movie would handle ice skating or racecar driving, in terms of cinematography.
Additionally, Tarzan steals virtually every single scene he’s in. Tarzan sitting in a plush chair swirling a glass of wine and talking about the regrets he has about his life. Tarzan painting. Everyone in the group not knowing Tarzan’s actual name when introducing him to company.
Haley: Tarzan (and the rest of the guys, for that matter), having absolutely no qualms about entering a competition for who’s the biggest drag queen.
Max: None of them give a shit or make a derisive crack about it being “gay,” they just get to it. I don’t even mind that the last third of the movie is nothing but good things happening to our heroes, because all the stuff directly leading up to and during the stripper convention is so fun. For example: a montage of male strippers doing stagecraft and arts and crafts, and later two characters have a heartfelt conversation while shirtless cowboys do an erotic line dance in unison.
Haley: I wasn’t even mad that they somehow managed to pull off a full five-act piece of immersive performance art in, what, twelve hours tops? They built a Joe-Mangianelli-weight-bearing sex swing, and I was still into suspending my disbelief.
Max: The end felt super abrupt to me, but that just makes it obvious to me that we need a Magic Mike XXX.
Haley: The last shot of the movie, as the boys gaze up at Fourth of July fireworks, is literally a twinkling in Channing Tatum’s eye. That must be the moment of birth for the threequel.
Max: Not only is Magic Mike XXL the movie of July 4th weekend 2015, but there’s a good argument to be made for it being the best movie of the summer that isn’t Mad Max. I was completely delighted by it.
Magic Mike XXL is dropping panties in theaters nationwide.