Magic Mike XXL: A conversation with the target audience7/8/2015
There’s little doubt that “Magic Mike XXL” is a film that was not intended for me. As a critic, I am still able to deconstruct the filmmaker’s work and say whether it is done well or not (it is), but I do not really have a grip on how effectively the flick connected with the people it was intended for. To help get a closer look at that, I took my wife, Caroline, to a screening last week and talked to her about it afterward. Some of her thoughts are included below.
But first, my off-the-cuff assessment: “Magic Mike XXL” was surprisingly good. Better than the original. The first “Magic Mike” felt like it took itself entirely too seriously at times. There was plenty of cheesecake, of course, but it was all wrapped around this story about people and love and the seriousness of an art form, dammit. “Magic Mike XXL” eschews almost all of that in exchange for just having a good time.
The story for the sequel is as bare bones as the dancers themselves. The gang from the first flick (minus Matthew McConaughey’s Dallas) is back together for, as they put it, one last ride, which, in this case, is a male entertainer “conference” in Myrtle Beach. And that is it. There is a pretty girl, Zoe (Amber Heard), who hits it off with Channing Tatum’s titular Mike, but there is no force-fed love story subplot. Instead, the film knows what kind of movie it is, and it does not try to do too much. There is more humor here than in the first installment, and much of it is self-deprecating. The guys talk amongst themselves a lot about this being their last hurrah, because strippers have a shelf life, and all of them are edging above it. In fact, “Magic Mike XXL” shows a surprising level of self-awareness.
Caroline’s thoughts on the second “Magic Mike” film being “the greatest chick flick of all time:”
“Every other chick flick out there starts by assuming something about the viewer. They impose upon the audience an ideal that I, as a woman, may or may not actually want. I don’t want a job as a magazine assistant in New York. But one thing that almost every straight woman out there can get on board with is hot guys being hot. Done.”
She goes on.
“In all the other chick flicks you’ve seen, there’s all this forced sexual tension, and everyone is clever and snappy with the dialogue. Mike isn’t smooth at all. None of them are. They’re awkward and dumb — and that’s amazing.”
And she’s right. All of the main characters come off as remarkably realistic, and this, in turn, gives the film a level of charm and personality that the original never seemed to come to grips with.
Caroline does not join me in my opinion that “Magic Mike XXL” is a film with a remarkably feminist bent, but the fact remains that there is a lot of positive body-image reinforcement going on here, as well as a general sense of women’s empowerment and a positive treatment of women’s sexual appetites and desires. I am not going to tell you to take your young daughters to see it, and it is not going to pass the Bechdel Test, but the film is more female-positive than a lot of the marketed “chick flicks” out there.
Caroline did, however, offer one caveat.
“Going to see it with you was like seeing it with your dad. Ladies, don’t go see it with your husbands.”
Fair enough. CV