As I find myself getting closer to the end of my thesis I find myself contemplating my professional future. The city I live in has been plastered with posters of male strippers… Though I hadn’t previously considered stripping as a career, I find myself entertaining all manner of outlandish options…
So, with popcorn in hand, I set off to do some ‘research’.
I saw Magic Mike 1.
For the first hour I was truly floored. An excellent director, a good story that seemed to be heading to great character development. I was all like: SHIT! I came here for a movie about strippers, I got a movie about the human condition. That’s Rocky territory.
Then the movie tumbled sharply downhill. Great character set ups were given away to build up the hero, which made the film a little predictable and typically romantic. I hear the lead wrote the script, which explains everything. Ego ruined a great story.
As a big guy, I was sad to see that the stereotypical big guy (wrestler Kevin Nash) was token furniture. The dude can’t dance, which gives us big dudes a bad name. I can do a better body roll, and I’m not cast as a male stripper. If they need a replacement, they should give me a call.
Anyway, do I want to be a stripper… no. Did I learn something form this movie? Yes, but almost against its will.
TL:DR: Magic Mike, A shitload better than it looks, but lots worse than it could have been.
Then, I saw Magic Mike XXL…
I’m going to say something controversial.
There was something real about the first Magic Mike. There was something real about the fact that the only actual characters in that film were whiter than mayonnaise. There was something real in the fact that the female audience were mostly cast from a model agency. Something real about the constant need to affirm heterosexuality. Even about the puke-inducingly perfect American-dream male lead.
Magic Mike was a realistic white boy fantasy of a ‘stripper with a heart of gold’ where the lifestyle comes with perks which are in tension with the consequences of constant self-objectification.
Mike XXL gives up on all of that.
Consequence, character and complexity are traded for universal accessibility. Where Mike 1 was unashamedly a story from a fixed perspective, Mike 2 tries to cover all possible audiences and be a universal fantasy. In a excruciatingly transparent bid for appeal it reaches out to all the audiences the first film neglected: we like gay people! we like ethnicities! we like women of all body types! Theoretically, that’s great, but for all the effort Mike XXL puts in to be appealing, it put very little into anything that resembles content.
What do we get? We have a road-trip, feel-good bromance about aging strippers with a heart of gold. The movie works so hard to be inoffensive that, at times, it actually feels like its aimed at a family audience. A family comedy about a group of nice-guy-sex-objects trying to discover who they are and getting up to hijinks along the way.
The best part was the audience reaction. The all-female cinema I saw the film in swooned, giggled and gasped at every cue. Which was a useful tell about what we all were watching. The first movie was an ambitious story about the consequences of a fantasy lifestyle. The second is the fantasy. And as a pure fantasy, it had its moments. It was fun.
Do I want to be a stripper? Sure, why not! All I need to do is master three moves. The fall-down floor-hump. The thrusting-body-roll. And the simulated crotch-sniff. I was pleased to see that my freerunning background would give me a head start. Did I learn anything? No.
TL:DR: Magic Mike XXL, everything you expect of a family movie with strippers.