Here's the short version: "Magic Mike XXL," which hits theaters on Wednesday, July 1, is like someone bottled up joy and then sprayed it all over the movie screen.
Now here's the long, hard version... Or at least 9 mostly spoiler-free reasons the real fireworks this Independence Day will be coming from Channing Tatum and company.
Goodbye, drama.Warner Bros.
There's definitely conflict in this sequel, but it strips out most of the drama of the first movie in favor of a straight-forward story of male entertainers trying to put on one more show before they all have to get "real" jobs.
Was Steven Soderbergh's original a smart, complicated reworking of the classic "new talent rocks the establishment" genre movie? Sure. But it also got super dark. "Magic Mike XXL" does not, and with that it better services the whole cast, from Tatum, to Joe Mangianiello (ostensibly the star, or at least the leader of the crew), to Matt Bomer.
They're a cheerful, funny cast, and it's nice to see them play closer to their strengths.
It gives the audience a happy ending.Warner Bros.
But really. The whole point of the movie is that these male entertainers aren't selling sex so much as trying to make women smile. They're trying to be funny, and when it works, it works like a motherf--ker. Delving SLIGHTLY into spoilers, this has the typical structure of heading to the big stripper convention to compete one last time, except there's no real contest -- it's only the pressure the group has put on themselves. But by the very, very happy ending, you -- like the women they're servicing -- will have a big, goofy smile on your face, guaranteed.
It's the most female empowering male-centric movie, maybe ever.Warner Bros.
Particularly once the group hooks up with Donald Glover's character, "Magic Mike XXL" becomes less about one last road trip, and more about how these male entertainers are filling a very specific hole in women's lives.
Don't be gross.
They're treating them like goddesses, like the queens the men know they are, and the women should believe they are on a daily basis. In the middle of a movie about guys stripping their clothes off, it's a surprisingly powerful, simply beautiful little message. Find who you are, and someone(s) who believe in you, too.
Jada Pinkett Smith is a f--king goddess.Warner Bros.
No joke. JPS rules this movie every second she's on screen, as the owner of a bacchanalia-fueled club -- and someone with ties to Tatum's past. She's a goddamn force of nature, and you will bow down before her glory.
But oh god, that dancing.Warner Bros.
Speaking as a regular shaped guy with some not great to okay dance skills, I can definitively state: Channing Tatum is unfair. It's unfair that a guy that funny, that nice, that talented can also turn his body into sexual water. The rest of the dancers (particularly Stephen "tWitch" Boss as Tatum's opposite) are fantastic, too, but seriously. Tatum flips himself into the air, picks up women, and then vibrates like he's in absolute control of every muscle. Which he is.
The dance sequences in the first movie were a ton of fun, but part of the plot is about how they ditch their old routines and make new ones, and they are superb. The end sequence, which clocks in at about 20 minutes, is one of the most insane (dirty [raunchy]) things you will see on screen this year.
...And also that soundtrack.Warner Bros.
There's a sequence I won't ruin set to a very specific '90s song that is laugh out loud hilarious. There's another that is one of the most delightfully dirtiest things I've ever seen, perfectly matched to the dirtiest song you can imagine. Front to back, the soundtrack nails it. Where the first movie was all about "It's Raining Men" and "Pony," this expands beautifully.
Not only that, but Matt Bomer and Donald Glover sing, and their voices are basically angels come to life.
It's like a revival meeting.Warner Bros.
Look, you don't have to listen to what I think of the movie. I mean, you kind of do, because you've read this far in the article. But let's talk about press screenings. They're usually filled with bored critics who can barely be bothered to muster a reaction. They're tired of seeing movies, and usually sparsely attended. I've seen superhero movies in large theaters with two other people, and they just don't work the same way they do, with fans, in a packed multiplex.
The press screening for "Magic Mike XXL" was like a tent revival. People laughing. Screaming. Cheering. And at the end, something I've never seen in a press screening, ever: they all applauded.
If that happens with a theater full of jaded critics, in a theater filled with actual fans, it's going to blow the goddamn roof off.
"Magic Mike XXL" is kind.Warner Bros.
I've touched on this a bit already, but before I let you go immediately buy your tickets, I wanted to reemphasize this that there's a kindness to the movie that pervades it from the beginning to the end. These are male entertainers, dancing dirty sex dances for paying women. It could be looked at derogatorily. It could be made fun of. It could be treated as dumb, unnecessary, or made fun of.
The movie doesn't do that. There's a sweetness throughout that makes even a dance featuring a woman thrown into a harness while Nine Inch Nails plays come off as nothing but harmless fun. It has respect for its characters, their life choices, and the people who interact with them.
"Magic Mike XXL" is a human movie, it's a sweet, kind movie... And given the negativity that pervades the world, is something more than worth a chance.
...And it's the perfect present.Warner Bros.
Particularly given the events of the past week, "Magic Mike XXL" is the raucous celebration America deserves. Enjoy the party.