What was the best movie of 2015?
It was Magic Mike XXL.
I’m pretty sure it was Mad Max: Fury Road, wasn’t it?
Mad Max: Fury Road is an incredible movie, but the best movie of 2015 was Magic Mike XXL.
Magic Mike XXL looked like it was a bad movie. Is Magic Mike XXL a bad movie?
No, as I have said twice before, and will now say a third time, it was the best movie of 2015. Please do not make me go over this again.
I never even saw the first Magic Mike movie. What’s it about?
Thank you for asking. Magic Mike was a 2012 film about a ragtag group of male strippers in Tampa. The title character Mike is played by Channing Tatum, and the film was loosely based on Tatum’s real experiences as a male stripper in his late teens. In that movie, Mike becomes something of a mentor to a young stripper named Adam (Alex Pettyfer) and guides him through the dark underbelly of the entertainment industry in South Florida. Matthew McConaughey plays Dallas, their boss, and was critically lauded for his performance. Despite expectations, Magic Mike was a fairly serious and dark film that focused on substance abuse and the damaging nature of the male ego.
Magic Mike ends with Mike leaving the stripping business in order to pursue his dream of building custom furniture and owning his own company while his peers continue to strip and do a lot of drugs and feel bad about their bodies.
Okay, yikes. Doesn’t sound too fun. What’s Magic Mike XXL about?
Magic Mike XXL is a get-the-gang-back-together road trip comedy.
So the gang’s all back?
You got it.
Hell yeah. Mike is there, front and center.
Uh, hm, no, he got very busy being a serious actor.
Alex Pettyfer? He seemed pretty important to the first movie.
Mm, no. He’s casually written out.
Then what gang? Who’s back?
Well, Mike, obviously, Channing Tatum’s character. Then there’s former pro-wrestler Kevin Nash as Tarzan. There’s Adam Rodriguez as Tito. Beautiful Matt Bomer as beautiful Ken (like the doll). Comedian Gabriel Iglesias as their MC, Tobias, and Joe Manganiello as Big Dick Richie.
Joe Manganiello in a career-defining performance as Big Dick Richie.
His name is Big Dick Richie?
You’re wasting my time with questions like this.
So why does the gang get back together?
Well, the guys call Mike up to say hi as they drive north to Myrtle Beach for the annual stripper convention.
The annual what?
Is this a real thing?
I don’t know, Google it.
Is it, like, a competition of some kind?
It’s, what, just a nonstop barrage of strip shows at a convention center for members of the public in South Carolina?
Yeah, I guess so.
Why does this matter?
It’s about the journey.
Since the first film, Mike’s life has taken a sharp nosedive. He’s finally pursuing his dream job, but it takes up all of his time. He can’t afford to get health care for his single employee. Brooke (you know, “the girl”) left him. And when it comes down to it, none of these guys are doing all that well for themselves. Ken is struggling to make it as a commercial actor. Tarzan’s getting up there in age. Tito and Tobias are barely breaking even working on a food truck that serves frozen yogurt. Big Dick Richie is hopelessly single, unable to find a woman not intimidated by his, um, reputation. These guys are all troubled and frustrated, and there’s a hope that having one last ride together at the convention provides some clarity for them in their lives.
So this is a movie about aspiring small business owners who all happen to be male strippers?
They prefer “male entertainers,” but yeah, now you’re getting it.
Can I ask you about some scenes I heard about in this movie?
Sure thing, I’ve seen Magic Mike XXL five times this year.
Does Channing Tatum build furniture while dancing to ‘Pony’?
Absolutely. If you looked up “modern masculinity,” this is what would appear first.
Is there a scene where the whole gang takes MDMA and Big Dick Richie dances in a convenience store to a Backstreet Boys song?
Is there a sequence that takes place in Savannah, Georgia, where Mike goes back to visit a former employer of his named Rome who’s built some kind of stripper mansion and in order to win her trust again, Mike has a dance-off with Twitch from ‘So You Think You Can Dance?’
Yes, definitely. Rome is played by Jada Pinkett Smith.
Does Rome always refer to women as ‘queens’?
Yes, and this is crucial.
It is very easy to argue that Magic Mike XXL is a dumb movie, (Many movies are dumb!), but there are ideas, Big Ideas, presented in Magic Mike XXL that are not dumb. In fact, it’s one of the most progressive movies to come out this year. This isn’t a movie that panders to women; it’s a movie that worships women. Women aren’t talked down to. Women are respected. Hell, everyone is respected! It’s a movie about objectification that is also about respect and kindness. Imagine a movie where everyone actually really likes each other and wants each other to do well. Imagine a movie where a character literally says “it’s bad that no one listens to women.” Magic Mike XXL is a movie that believes women want and deserve good things, and in this universe, those good things are basically hot, nice, dumb men.
Is there a girl-role in this movie?
Oh, is there!
What’s her deal?
Her name is Zoe and she’s played by Amber Heard. She’s an aspiring photographer, but guess what, she’s just as stuck as the rest of the gang.
Makes sense. Do she and Mike have sex?
Actually, no. They don’t even kiss! Their relationship is kind of “not about” that.
What do you mean?
She’s sad and bisexual, and mostly Mike just wants to make her happy.
Hm, sounds selfless. This movie is weird?
I think you mean “great,” but okay.
How many times have you rewatched the final dance sequence?
I honestly can’t tell you because I don’t know anymore.
Okay, I think I’m pretty on board with this. Is there anything else you want to tell me about Magic Mike XXL?
When I talk to people who haven’t seen Magic Mike XXL, their excuses usually come down to one of these three different reasons:
1. I didn’t have time/get a chance to go. (Forgivable)
2. It looked bad. (Vaguely forgivable though I have just now proved this wrong.)
3. I am a straight man, and this movie is very clearly not for me. (Wildly unforgivable.)
I saw Magic Mike XXL three times in theaters, joined by men and women of any and every sexuality. No one disliked it. No one said, “this was a waste of my time and money.” We laughed! We clapped at the end! It is strange and sad to me that someone would deprive themselves a fun time at a movie theater because they think a movie is not for them based on false assumptions about who a movie is for.
Here is a true thing: as the credits rolled on my third viewing of Magic Mike XXL, I noticed my friend sitting next to me wiping tears off her face. There isn’t a single sad thing in Magic Mike XXL. It is maybe the happiest movie in existence. She was crying because she was so genuinely caught off-guard by the way men talk to and about women in this movie. That sounds crazy, but please believe me. There are so many movies about men who hate women! Excellent movies, no doubt, but still hurtful and frustrating in the way they portray relationships between men and women. And we did laugh at my poor friend, drying her tears, and she laughed too, but there’s something special and sad and, dare I say, magic about a movie that mostly just wants to make women feel good about themselves. I’m sorry if you missed it in theaters, but hey, it’s available to rent now.
When can I come over and watch it?
Does Elizabeth Banks have a cameo?
Fran Hoepfner is a Contributing Editor at Bright Wall/Dark Room. She is a writer and comedian based out of the Chicagoland area.