THERE'S A PHENOMENON in sequels: They need to trade off the success of the first film, so they need a similar story. But they also have to at least pretend to offer something new. In dance, a cappella, or cheerleading movies, this usually means rounding up everybody from the first movie, then sending them to a national competition of some sort—one last hurrah, but for real this time.
So I wasn't very enthusiastic when I heard we were getting a sequel to 2012's excellent Magic Mike. Do we need to see this same cast of beefheads grind on each other some more, I wondered, but with higher stakes? Does anyone need more of this? Answers: Yes and OMG YES. FUCK YES. SO MUCH.
Our beloved Channing Tatum returns as Mike Lane, the stripper with a wang of gold. Three years after the first film, Mike's now running his own custom furniture business and wears shirts to his job. Then his old stripper—sorry, MALE ENTERTAINER—pals call him up for a road trip to a stripper convention in Myrtle Beach! Chatum balks for all of four seconds, and then away they go.
Was that plot synopsis too short? Guess what: That's all there is! But believe me when I tell you it is all you need.
The first Magic Mike was directed by Steven Soderbergh, who this time around serves as cinematographer and editor, but hands over the directing reins to longtime collaborator Gregory Jacobs. While Soderbergh's film, set in Tampa, had a lot of oversaturated sunsets that were peppered with strippers, Jacobs takes the opposite approach—focusing on strippers and then, every once in a while, placing them against a beautiful backdrop. There are enough wide-angle shots to honor Soderbergh's original vision, but now there are 10,000 percent more shaking asses and glistening abs. In other words, Soderbergh made a beautiful film that had strippers in it; Jacobs made a crazy fun stripper movie that's also beautiful.
I loved every second of Magic Mike XXL because I love dancing and hot guys and glitter. But I also loved it because it's important to this moment in society. Hold on, because I promise this will make sense: Earlier this summer, Entourage: The Movie bombed after being panned for its excessive douchiness and crass treatment of women. People—apparently, finally—are over that level of bro. Magic Mike XXL, while also featuring a cast of dudes who would take molly, treats women with class and respect. Well, "class" might be a little bit much—but instead of seeing women as nothing but orifices and/or nags, the dudes of MMXXL worship them. Sure, they wanna fuck them, too, but more important is pleasing them. And how! During their panty-moistening dance routines, Magic Mike & Co. grind on women of all colors and shapes, and not one would pinch his nose while burying it in some lady's crotch. And another thing: When the dudes ask each other about their sexual conquests, they ask, "She bang you?" instead of "You fuck her?" Yeah, I know this is just syntax, but it means something: These dudes consciously make the man the passive party, and the woman the doer. People, this is PROGRESS!
And not only that, but while these men surely recognize the homoeroticism of what they do, there isn't a single gay joke to be found in Magic Mike XXL. These dudes are just pals who like to take their shirts off and grease each other up and, you know, support each other. They can look into each other's eyes and say they love each other without adding, "Not in a gay way," because that's how secure they are in their masculinity. This isn't hyperbole; that actually happens.
Magic Mike XXL is the most pro-woman, anti-homophobia film I've seen in a long time. The fact that it's loaded with hot dudes and dance numbers... well, that's nice too.