Somehow I wasn’t in line on the first day for Magic Mike XXL; even though I thoroughly enjoyed the first one, and heard nothing but raves about the film, it took me a month to see it. But I’m extraordinarily glad I finally did – I haven’t had that good of a time at the movies, well, maybe ever. So while most everything about the film has already been said – though I’d quickly like to give a shoutout to the fact that this movie sees female pleasure of all kinds as a transformative force – a few less obvious, though no less revolutionary, things have stuck with me.
- Metatextuality: This being the sequel to a Soderbergh film, the clever intertextuality of MMXXL isn’t actually that surprising. It’s remarkable for how effective it is, though: Gabriel Iglesias’ classic McConaughey impression when discussing how Dallas has gone to Macau; Andie McDowell, who may as well be reprising her character from Soderbergh’s sex, lies, and videotape, warning us of the sexual desert of middle age; Channing Tatum’s literally tongue-in-cheek performance of “Pony” in his workshop; and, my favorite, Joe Manganiello’s horror and disgust at the troupe of male entertainers performing a Twilight routine. All these moments work together to build a film that never takes itself too seriously, and is, like its male entertainers, focused on the audience’s pleasure.
- Respect: Speaking of pleasure, the male entertainers all respect the need for pleasure, and joy, and hold it above anything else. They respect women; I can’t think of a single misogynistic comment throughout the entire film, which must be some kind of record. And while the film is incredibly heteronormative, there’s no homophobia, either; the guys get up on stage and do legit voguing at a drag show, with none of the “no homo” attitude we’ve come to expect from modern masculinity. And when Zoe (Amber Heard Depp) describes herself to Mike as going through a lesbian phase, he doesn’t mock her, or make any suggestive comments about how he can fix that. He just accepts it.
- That ending: I can’t express how glad I am that the stripped convention wasn’t a competition where they had to beat some young upstart group of male entertainers – instead, the only people they were competing with were themselves. This means that there can be a really satisfying ending without some totally manufactured conflict with an ending we see coming. Instead, the guys are able to perform to the best of their abilities, and “win” by doing their best, as cheesy as it sounds. And speaking of cheesy, the end, with a montage of July 4 good times set to “All I Do Is Win,” should be an eye-rolling affair. Instead, it’s a celebration of friendship and hard work! Plus Zoe and Mike don’t fall in love – she’s even seen throwing her arms around a group of women. How’s that for a nice ending? As the friend I went to the movie with said, “This is what Entourage should be.”