Our favorite beefcakes are back, so let the feast begin! Admittedly, there was little at stake. Although we lightly touch upon Mike’s (Channing Tatum) business and how it is struggling, you are quickly made to forget about that as he recklessly abandons it to join his friends in their last hurrah. The destination? A Florida stripper convention, where they plan to perform together for the last time (for now). Our favorites, like Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello) and Ken (Matt Bomer) return, along with some new friends, including the talented Andre (Donald Glover), ringleader Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith), and new love interest Zoe (Amber Heard). A road trip would be nothing without campfire tales, gas station seductions, and the inevitable vehicular collision while under the influence of ecstasy. We’ve all been there.
Their world seems more open and engaging. We see other aspects of the entertainment industry, like a fabulous drag queen bar emceed by one of my favorite queens, Ms. Vicky Vox (who plays Tori Snatch), and where seeing Channing Tatum vogue quickly becomes something you never knew you wanted. Then there’s a members only, exclusive house filled with male entertainers, headed by a sexually-liberated Jada Pinkett Smith. We can’t, of course, forget about the reason behind the entire trip. The strippers’ convention held in Florida, which seems like one of the few states where something like this could plausibly be said to exist.
Everything is lifted this time around. The production value, self-awareness, and even the overall tone is higher compared to the somber one in the first film. The performances have always had a hint of humor to their extreme sex appeal, only this time they assault you with their aggressively suggestive movements, many of which are meant to come off as funny as they are titillating. The choreography is as brazen as ever, especially during the big finale. One of the many upgrades in this sequel is the inclusion of singing, especially considering the film has Donald Glover from Childish Gambino there for motivational support. Even though there is singing, the true song hero of the film, and the one likely to be stuck inside your head for the next week, is Ginuwine’s “Pony.”
Magic Mike XXL is unabashedly all about entertainment, and not just the physical kind that involves hips gyrating like crashing waves along a shore. The film is like a big road trip that way, allowing us to glean how each character would act in a more relaxed environment. Through their casual conversations, they are able to reflect and give us some insight into the life of a male entertainer, or at least how they see it. It’s hard to tell if this is Channing Tatum, who helped co-write the screenplay, showing us his point of view.
What I do know is that they present a fairly intriguing feminist idea/justification for what they do. This is obviously not true for more financially-motivated entertainers, but this particular entity of entertainers acknowledge that the world is male-dominated, and that the women’s needs are often left unmet. That is where they step in, happily martyring themselves for the female’s enjoyment. There is no objectification involved in what they do, because they are doing it for their own pleasure as much as the woman’s, caring little about making money this time around. Objectification is something that is done without your permission, but when you give it willingly, then it just becomes mutual pleasure. Who knew stripping could be the great equalizer?
RATING: ★★★★★★★ (7/10 stars)