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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Magic Mike XXL movie review: crotch watch

Magic Mike XXL red light

A cringe-worthy jamboree of dimbulb manflesh that’s even more embarrassing than the first film.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): didn’t like the first film, don’t like Channing Tatum, don’t find stripping sexy

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

If you want a picture of the future, imagine Channing Tatum grinding his crotch in a human face, forever.

You think I exaggerate? Between this cringe-worthy jamboree of dimbulb manflesh (and that of the first film, which wasn’t even this embarrassing) and Fifty Shades of Grey’s celebration of abuse as romantic, Hollywood has gotten a warped idea about What Women Want. Expect more of it, soon. Because plenty women have embraced these things. (Magic Mike earned $167 million worldwide on a paltry budget of $7 million. XXL will do at least as well, because there’s nothing audiences love more than More Of The Same.) I console myself with the thought that we women are so unused to being catered to by The Movies that so many of us welcome even distorted attempts at it. Like how black audiences embrace Tyler Perry’s minstrel shows.

Or else I’m just extra weird, and I need to add to the list of ladyness I am doing wrong. Maybe women really do want this stuff, and I am a failure at performing my gender. I don’t find Christian Grey’s antics romantic. I don’t find Channing Tatum appealing. And I don’t understand why random men taking their clothes off in front of a crowd in public is automatically sexy. If anything, Magic Mike XXL is an unintentional parody of Sexy(TM), an unwitting sendup of caricatures of men and women and sex and attraction that so much of pop culture — including advertising! — is built on. But we’re meant to swallow this straight-faced and unconditionally. We don’t see a lot of evidence for it here, but if Tatum’s (Jupiter Ascending, 22 Jump Street) Mike really is the talented furniture designer we’re supposed to accept him as, that would be sexy. Creativity is attractive. The talent to make something useful and beautiful is very attractive. Grinding your crotch in the face of a woman you don’t know on a stage while hoards of screaming women watch and throw cash at you is icky. And sad. And definitely not sexy.

But maybe that’s just me.

Oh, and let’s not even get into how the male strippers here aren’t as naked as women in movies that aren’t even about stripping generally are. Even playing at being Sexy(TM), this movie is still blind — maybe deliberately, maybe accidentally — to the differences in how Hollywood treats men and women in this regard. If male nudity without any context of character or situation is meant to appeal to women, then why aren’t the men nude?

Not that I need to see Channing Tatum’s penis. That wouldn’t make me like this movie any more. But still.

Argh.

I wonder if screenwriter Reid Carolin, returning from Magic Mike, read my review of the first film, because many of my complaints about it — like how it all but ignored women, and couldn’t even be cheesy about dudes stripping — appear to have been addressed. Though not in ways that make XXL any more interesting or entertaining, so probably I have continued to be unheeded in my time. The cheese-factor has been ramped up considerably, and much of that results in “humor” that isn’t funny, and much that is downright undignified, like how the new routines the “Kings of Tampa” develop for their last-hurrah performance are the stuff of bad amateur porn: an ice-cream man who wants to lick chocolate sauce off your thighs; a groom who ends your wedding by strapping you into a sex harness. (See? Cuz all women fantasize about getting married!) The nods to how women react to men stripping ranges from the inexplicable — Jada Pinkett Smith (Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, The Women) as the Kings’ MC asking women audiences if they are ready to be “worshipped,” which doesn’t make any sense; the audiences are worshipping the male strippers — to the utterly mansplainy, as in the scene in which two men discuss why (they imagine) women like male strippers.

There isn’t much of a story here: what there is is all cliché, half “one last job,” half “hey kids let’s put on a show,” as the guys travel to a stripper convention (ugh) before disbanding for reasons that we never understand, especially since they all seem to love it so much. In the place of story, we get phallic power tools, a man (Joe Manganiello: Sabotage, What to Expect When You’re Expecting) lamenting the unfortunate large size of his cock (XXL is a tragedy, yo), and strip shows by men who aren’t even marginally “characters” like Tatum and Co. are. (In case this matters, neither Matthew McConaughey nor Alex Pettyfer return from the first film. You’ll have to settle for Matt Bomer [Winter’s Tale, In Time] and Adam Rodriguez. Director Steven Soderbergh doesn’t return, either, so you can’t even pretend this is anything other than a lame, half-assed retread cash-in.) Cameras could have been set up in a Chippendales club and you’d be none the wiser. If that’s your cup of tea, you might enjoy this. But I expect more from my movies… and from my men. Especially from my fantasy men. You wanna turn me on? Land a rover on Mars. Or make a great piece of art. And keep your clothes on until we’re alone.


See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Magic Mike XXL for its representation of girls and women.


red light 2 stars

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Magic Mike XXL (2015)
US/Can release: Jul 01 2015
UK/Ire release: Jul 03 2015

MPAA: rated R for strong sexual content, pervasive language, some nudity and drug use
BBFC: rated 15 (strong language, sex references, drug use)

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • Beowulf

    When I taught a course on “Women and Minorities in the Mass Media” years ago, the issue of romance novels came up. For the longest time, academics, especially men, thought that the readers must practice self-hate and are slutty “bad girls”. When they actually interviewed women about why they liked these novels (rather than examining the content of the novels), they discovered that women felt empowered. It was sex (chaste and at the end) on their terms. Often the women in the stories were nurses and doctors, professional women, actresses, business owners, and socially above the males. They controlled the romance, they controlled the sex and the first kisses. In the rougher books, it was a case of fantasy rape: the man finally threw the heroine onto the bed and ravished her as the reader secretly wished to ravished–but in a SAFE, FANTASY way where she was actually in control.

    I know of lots of women who are planning to go to the first show tonight in girl groups and laugh and point and gasp and have a fun, safe time. It’s not a Woody Allen movie–those guys are staying safely on the screen.

    Thoughts?

  • Hank Graham

    I had *no* interest in seeing this film (which you’ve certainly confirmed), but the first line of your review will be giving me grins for the rest of the day, I suspect. Thanks!

  • But this movie is not a romance.

    Clearly, there are women who find this sort of stuff appealing. I don’t, and I cannot fathom it, so what can I do but explain why own reaction to this movie?

    Whatever women get out of *Magic Mike,* these have been stories about men. And I still don’t understand what these men get out of their work. Other than money.

  • Matt Clayton

    Awesome review, and I agree on the first line.

    With MaryAnn’s permission, I’d like to use that first line as my new forum signature. I’ll give you proper credit and a link to this review.

  • Juliet

    Not all readers of romance novels secretly wish to be raped! Even in the safe confines of ‘fantasy.’ While I would never presume to speak for all women scenes of sexual violence always repulse me – in literature and in film.

  • Of course!

  • mishigoss

    This movie might be viewed as meta, if one could possibly believe it has the smarts to be. The film is, after all, the same as the strip shows, purveying sizzle-without-tubesteak “sexiness,” with the thinnest of narrative framing, to gaggles of women who throw money at the enterprise. Hey, I’m a Kinsey 6 gay guy – though not a size queen about either baskets or biceps – and I do love me some hot porn. But I found the calculated cock-tease of the whole enterprise really smarmy. And yeah, I just saw more dick on Penny Dreadful than in this supposedly hot film, and that show, unlike MMXXL, is actually intended to be horrifying.

  • Beowulf

    Of course not. And it’s self-fulfilling to say not “All” readers of romance novels want that–SOME is the operative word. In this fantasy, the women gets the sexual union she wishes without having to be a “bad” girl. In the remake of MADDING, our heroine comes across a sensible young woman…who then chooses the handsome young cad in a uniform!
    By the way, this is known as “audience-response theory” where the meaning is determined by the “reader” (viewer, as well), rather than the text as examined by academics.

  • David
  • Someone132

    “Hollywood has gotten a warped idea about What Women Want.”

    “Or else I’m just extra weird, and I need to add to the list of ladyness I
    am doing wrong. Maybe women really do want this stuff, and I am a
    failure at performing my gender”

    Honestly, what is the point of these lines? All they do is reinforce the idea that you can treat women as a single, homogenous group, even as the rest of the site in general, and WATW section in particular, correctly rails against it. We get that it’s not what you want starting from the “biast (Con)” section (Thanks for including it, by the way, more critics ought to do so.) and we also get that there enough women who do want it, so that makes the above lines weird and unnecessary.

    In all, I doubt that anyone but a Hollywood exec caricture really thinks a film can target all women at once, just as no film can target all men at once. However, it does identify a clear subset of women that desires these films, and is large enough to make them profitable, and that is all the business is about.

  • All they do is reinforce the idea that you can treat women as a single, homogenous group

    No, it really doesn’t. The bit you quoted it dripping with sarcasm and is sending up the notion that all women think the same.

  • RogerBW

    I think that one of the currently-acceptable ways of expressing woman-ness is the intersection of this and Bridesmaids: the women “off the leash”, who can do what they want (in strictly defined ways), and then go home to be “normal” afterwards. How liberating!

  • Except unlike in *Bridesmaids,* the women here who are “off the leash” aren’t even characters.

  • Thera Pitts

    I like Channing Tatum, to me in his more recent efforts he sends off this kind of sweet, “look how hard I’m trying” vibe, although that could just be me. And I think films about sex workers can be interesting in general, however I didn’t find myself all that interested in seeing these films. There just seemed like better things I could do with my time. I support their right to exist though.

  • These guys aren’t sex workers, though.

  • Thera Pitts

    I always thought a stripper counted as a sex worker, or at least a subcategory of sex worker. Forgive me if I’m incorrect.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Sex worker is usually used as an euphemism for prostitute but according to various sources — including Wikipedia — it can also refer to anyone who does sexually explicit work — including strippers.

    If that wasn’t complicated enough, I know of at least several people in real life who have worked as both strippers and prostitutes — though not necessarily at the same time. However, I would prefer to believe that this is not necessarily the norm.

  • These guys are dancers. They don’t even get completely naked.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Are women strippers dancers or sex workers? Do strippers (of any gender) lose their dancer status the moment they reveal socially identified naughty bits? Does the classification of an activity as “sex work” make it less?

    Sex work is an ambiguous term that can be defined too narrowly or too broadly. But I have to think that nay reasonable definition would have to include stripping. Because the performances of strippers is explicitly intended for the sexual titillation of the audience.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Neither do some female strippers. Indeed, prior to the 1990s, topless dancing was more the norm in Texas strip clubs and nude dancing was almost heard of.

    And Texas was not the only state like that. When some of my Detroit male relatives wanted to see a totally nude stripper in the 1980s — as opposed to a mere topless dancer — they did not bother going to a local strip club; they went to one in Canada.

    Nowadays, nude strip clubs are more common but for what it’s worth, there are still some clubs where the dancers — and most strip clubs in the US do tend to refer to their female strippers as dancers — do not get completely naked.

    In her book Nine Lives, writer Lynn Snowden wrote about having to follow a similar rule in Louisiana when she worked as a stripper. She also noted that she did not necessarily have an easier time getting used to the job just because she didn’t have to get completely naked. But I suspect you already guessed that part.

  • I am no expert on these issues. But in my mind, someone who is a sex worker would be doing a job that involves actual sexual contact, and not dance moves that only simulate such (over clothed body parts).

    I’m not making any judgments here about sex work being “less.”

  • LaSargenta

    I have a book called (I believe, it is at home and I’m going from memory) Tricks & Treats: Sex Workers Write About Their Lives. I think I may have even mentioned it on FF before. The submissions the editor (a self-described sex worker himself) received show the wide range of things that can be called sex work. I really recommend this book. Not all the writing is great; but, listening to the voices is wonderful.

  • Sounds great. Thanks for the rec.

  • LaSargenta

    I looked at the book…it’s Tricks & Treats:Sex Workers Write About their Clients. (Not themselves…although they *do* write about themselves in these essays.)

  • None

    The male strippers aren’t as naked as women in movies? What are you talking about? The men showed their chest and butt. When women have nude scenes, they show their chest and butt. Did Demi Moore show her vagina in Striptease? Do many actresses show their vagina in any Hollywood film? You cannot call for penis exposure when the vagina is next to never shown in films, yet you foolishly argue that women show more than men. If you want to see penis, then you should also be bitching about the bigger lack of vagina in films. So much for feminism being about “equality.”

  • None

    The male strippers aren’t as naked as women in movies? What are you talking about? The men showed their chest and butt. When women have nude scenes, they show their chest and butt. Did Demi Moore show her vagina in Striptease? Do many actresses show their vagina in any Hollywood film? You cannot call for penis exposure when the vagina is next to never shown in films, yet you foolishly argue that women show more than men. If you want to see penis, then you should also be bitching about the bigger lack of vagina in films. So much for feminism being about “equality.”

  • None

    The male strippers aren’t as naked as women in movies? What are you talking about? The men showed their chest and butt. When women have nude scenes, they show their chest and butt. Did Demi Moore show her vagina in Striptease? Do many actresses show their vagina in any Hollywood film? You cannot call for penis exposure when the vagina is next to never shown in films, yet you foolishly argue that women show more than men. If you want to see penis, then you should also be bitching about the bigger lack of vagina in films. So much for feminism being about “equality.”

  • Fide Fide

    A stupid movie for retarded people. I tried to watch the first “Magic Mike” and it made me dumb. F-u Soderbergh.

  • Danielm80

    It’s interesting that the comments with this style of speech tend to show up here between midnight and sunrise. I wonder if it has to do with closing time at the bars. Or vampires.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Speaking of voices, it was probably inevitable that one of the many former strippers-turned-writers out there would eventually comment on this movie and so one has:

    http://nymag.com/thecut/2015/07/wheres-the-female-stripper-movie-of-my-dreams.html

    For that matter, former stripper-turned-writer Diablo Cody has some comments on this movie as well:

    http://jezebel.com/5982889/diablo-cody-points-out-the-channing-tatum-stripping-double-standard

    Your mileage, of course, may vary…

  • LaSargenta

    I’d assume they would all have an opinion. Not necessarily the same opinion, but, hey, it’s their field, they’re gonna have thoughts about it.

  • Of course, the first film was supposedly based on Channing Tatum’s own experience as a stripper.

  • Tonio Kruger

    True.

    But it’s so rare to see such opinions make it into print.

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