[Guest Writer: Sara Winchester]
It’s been three years since Magic Mike crawled across a movie theater screen and into your panties. Now after a long, hard wait the next chapter for the Kings of Tampa has come back to those screens today, in Magic Mike XXL.
When the first Magic Mike came out I admit that I was intrigued. Male strippers? Channing Tatum dancing in a g-string? Matthew McWhat’sHisFace in a tiny banana hammock? I was sold before the first trailer even hit.
What I thought I was going to see was a light hearted movie about strippers. For me, the original MM suffered from an identity crisis; I was never sure if it wanted to be a dark and artsy drama or if it was supposed to be the Showgirls for, well, girls. Luckily, Magic Mike XXL has definitely surpassed my admitedly low expectations for a sequel.
First thing’s first, they got rid of poor, drug-addicted Alex Pettyfer and his incredibly stiff sister, played by Cody Horn. Matthew McWhatever also is absent from the sequel because of alleged salary complaints. If any of these three characters were your favorites then set yourself up for a wee bit of disappointment.
XXL is everything I wanted the first MM to be….a hilarious little road-trip romp that catches fans up with the cast of the first movie three years later. The Kings of Tampa are lost without their mentor and feeling the sting of being abandonment, after a prank phone call reunites Magic Mike with his old gang. Together the group hits the road for one last hurrah at a Stripper Convention in Myrtle Beach, because what else?
Along the way, the guys make new friends and reunite with old ones as they trek from Miami to the convention. On her way to New York, Amber Heard joins the cast as a wayward photographer who first crosses paths with Mike at a drag queen bonfire. Later they’re reunited at a boozy soiree where a group of bored southern wives and divorcees are looking to get their groove back by hosting a night with the group of man candy.
But to be fair….I was actually surprised at these few moments of female empowerment that are sprinkled thru the film. A woman who confides that her husband won’t make love to her without the lights off is given a really nice moment from dancer Ken who reminds her that his issues are not hers, and she shouldn’t feel ashamed.
Another great actor to look out for is Jada Pinkett Smith as Rome, a role originally written as a man, the modern day madam of a members-only male strip club where Mike used to dance. In her club women are to be praised, celebrated and adored. Her philosophy is that all ladies are beautiful, they should feel beautiful, and they should explore their sexual appetites in the safe environment that she provides. Sure, the women have to pay, but I feel that it’s the same as buying makeup you love or clothes that make you feel amazing. Whatever the cost, she seems to care that her business is inclusive, fun and safe. I was also happy to see more diverse women in the audience receiving the same attention from the dancers than the typical “hot girls” that often fill the background of scenes like this.
Rounding out the new cast is adorable Donald Glover as a smooth talking crooner, and Stephen “Twitch” Boss. Twitch first came into the public eye when he competed for “So You Think You Can Dance” back in 2007 and he has only gotten better with age! Talented and easy on the eyes…I’ll take it.
Channing Tatum is, of course, is best when he’s on stage. He’s always been a mediocre actor as best, but he shines when he’s dancing. He seems to be having a lot of fun reprising his role, especially bantering with Joe Manganiello who zings his one-liners as his character frets about the upcoming competition and his dancing identity.
All in all, it’s a lot funnier then I would have imagined it was going to be. Definitely worth a look, even if you’re only in it for the man candy. But if you want a little more then go for the precision dancing, the great music, and Joe Manganiello tying his shoes. That alone will make it worth the ride.