Are you ready for ‘one last ride’..?
In 2012 Magic Mike was something of a surprise hit. Channing Tatum (playing our eponymous hero) used his pre-Hollywood experience as a ‘male entertainer’ (the apparently preferred term to strippers) to produce a movie which reflected both the sexiness and seediness of the industry. It also inspired millions of women to re-listen to ‘It’s Raining Men’ and be unable to separate it from Tatum’s… athletic… and memorable choreography. Earning $167 million at the box office, on only a $7 million budget, it’s unsurprising that we return back to Mike’s world of male entertainers. This time it’s XXL, and in this case size really does matter…
Magic Mike ended with Mike throwing in the thong and retiring, giving up the ‘glamour’ of the industry to fulfill his dream of setting up his own company (designing and customizing carpentry, obviously!) He also gave up all the perks of the job (money, drugs and lots of women) to settle down with one girl. The sequel starts three years into his retirement, his business is going as well as could be expected in this economic climate, yet Mike’s life is not particularly…well magical. So when he gets a phone call from his old crew, offering him the chance for ‘one last ride’ and reunite for a final performance at a stripping convention (sidebar – I have no idea if this is a real thing, but I intend to find out and attend if so…but I digress!) It’s an opportunity he accepts readily, after a nostalgia- inducing dance to ‘Pony’ whilst weltering one evening (what is it about Hollywood attempting to sexualise weltering?!?) The film follows the crew as they travel to the convention, following the typical journey narrative. Things go wrong on the way, the characters experience self-reflection and make a show-stopping final performance. Yet it’s still a cracking female entertainer of a film.
Whilst the first film was enjoyable enough it tried to hard to be more than it was. It tried to be an expose of the seedy underbelly of stripping, a reflection of broken dreams and addictions. The sequel has clearly learnt from this mistake, replacing the po-faced storytelling with fun. So. Much. Fun.
What is really enjoyable about this film, and what makes it not necessarily extraordinary but at least note-worthy, is fact it accurately portrays and liberates female desire. The choreography is designed with female engagement in mind, the male entertainers want to please and excite women. They enjoy it. And unlike many recent Hollywood films, there is no grey area here about consent – the consent of both men and women is given and celebrated. The men dance for crowds made up of all shapes, sizes and ages – there are no restrictions here. All women are beautiful and deserve to experience desire and be desired themselves. In fact many of the scenes explicitly state this (in a way that is almost Corny but manged not to cross the line) told through mini-story arcs where the men help the women (yeah, here’s that line) embrace themselves and their worth. The cloying nature of this is minimised with the presence of some strong and fierce female characters – Jada Pinkett Smith and Elizabeth Banks steal every scene they are in.
The soundtrack is also electric – this time round it will be impossible to separate Backstreet Boys ‘I want it that way’ and NIN’s ‘Closer’ from Joe Manganiello’s (Big Dick Ritchie’s) *inspiring* routines. This film is well worth seeing, ideally with a group of friends or a cinema screen filled with admiring women. Never has a cinema been filled with estrogen on this scale, or as many appreciative cackles…