A lot of women love “Magic Mike.” During its first five days in theaters, “Magic Mike XXL” played to an audience composed primarily of females —96 percent of the people seeing the film over the holiday weekend were women. If the movie made $27.1 million and the average ticket price was $8.00, then 3.39 million people spent their Fourth of July gazing at Channing Tatum in a thong. Just 140,000 of these people were men.
This statistic is astounding, but it makes sense. Anyone can enjoy the movie, but “Magic Mike” is made for the ladies. “Magic Mike XXL” truly exalts its female viewers, providing an all-encompassing experience of fun and pleasure that isn’t available anywhere else in cinema. In this film, women are presented as queens who deserve to be listened to, loved and respected, and men should act according to a woman’s needs. For 115 minutes, “Magic Mike XXL” fulfills its duty to its royal audience, and puts on a banging performance that effectively satiates its viewers’ desires.
“Magic Mike XXL” follows former stripper Mike Lane (Channing Tatum, “Dear John”) as he reunites with his old friends for one last road trip to a stripping convention in Myrtle Beach. The script is more ensemble-driven than the original “Magic Mike,” and the road movie structure gives the movie an excellent opportunity to explore its supporting characters with greater depth. Each member of the “Kings of Tampa” emerges more fully formed, each with his own goals, ambitions, sense of humor and dance moves.
Without Dallas (Matthew McConaughey, “True Detective”) managing their performances, the guys also learn to find their own joy in stripping — they don’t want to be firemen and cops anymore. Stripping is their preferred method of self-expression, so crucial to their identities that one performer even says he’d keep doing it even if he got rich and didn’t need the money. “Magic Mike XXL” ’s choreography is especially creative in the way that each guy brings his personality into his performance. The new moves aren’t always perfect (unless, of course, it’s anyone’s fantasy to see Matt Bomer sing a D’Angelo song while humping the floor), but on the whole, the choreography is sexy and innovative.
“Magic Mike XXL” also has a solid grasp on its inherent campiness. Many of the actors, including Tatum, Gabriel Iglesias and Donald Glover, are natural comedians, and their comfort with the movie’s sillier material shows. It’s easy to forget that the original “Magic Mike” was actually a very depressing movie, with heavy themes of corrupted innocence, addiction and failure. “XXL” is a better movie for leaving behind all the sad stuff and for allowing Channing Tatum to reveal to the audience that his drag queen name would be “Clitoria Labia.” If “Magic Mike XXL” is tasked with providing a pleasurable experience for the audience, it’s only fitting that the movie is actually pleasurable to watch.
Among “XXL” ’s greatest additions is Mike’s ex-flame Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith, “Gotham”), who now runs a prestige strip club in Savannah. The character was originally supposed to be played by Jamie Foxx, but Smith brings so much to the role that it’s impossible to imagine anyone else pulling it off. Her chemistry with Channing Tatum smolders, and the monologues she delivers to introduce her strippers engage audiences in the strip club and in the movie theater. She reinforces the movie’s feminist themes by her insistence that everyone in the room is a beautiful “queen” to be worshipped. When she addresses the the room about what kind of man women want, Rome speaks with the confidence of a circus ringleader and the pathos of a best friend.
It’s no surprise that only 140,000 men saw “Magic Mike XXL” during its opening weekend. The film embodies, quite clearly, what women want — women want a lot of things. Like Rome says, women want someone who listens to them and wants to please them. Women want to be treated like a worthy audience and enjoy the same sexy material that men can find in pretty much any movie today. “Magic Mike XXL” makes enormous strides in gender-equal film sexuality, and it accomplishes all this while staying fun, silly and always sexy.