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Magic Mike XXL: It's Magic

By: Yehudit Mam

One of the winning things about the Magic Mike movies is that they are all about hustling... for work. The first one was about men trying to make a buck in a depressed economy. The 2.0 version is about them dreaming of startups (artisanal yogurt, apps, yoga...). Mike (Channing Tatum, hot and adorbs) now has a fledgling carpentry business. It looks like he is thriving, but he can barely pay his sole employee. Like most people in the United States, he is struggling. Mike is summoned to meet with his ex-crew, who invent something about the sorely missed Dallas (the sorely missed Matthew McConaughey) to get him to join them for one last stripper's convention at Myrtle Beach. He does, for old time's sake, and, since this is a female fantasy, because a stupid, stupid woman broke his heart.

Although the sixpacks on the guys are as hard as ever, this sequel is a bit wobbly. When it is earnest about loyalty and friendship things get boring, but when the guys writhe without their shirts on, it is good, old fashioned fun. The strippers' ensemble is talented and game, and has an honest rapport which is sweet to watch. I was praying for Dallas to make an appearance. Alas, he never shows (I'm saving you some serious heartbreak here). Borrowing the charm of an absent star must be a new low in screenwriting.

In his stead, however, is a very fine Jada Pinkett Smith doing the MC's honors as Rome, a successful club owner and Mike's former flame. She is great, as is the always put together Elizabeth Banks as the convention's organizer, and Andie McDowell sporting a fahn South Carolina accent as a wealthy divorcee. This puts one actress over thirty and two over-forty actresses (plus their friends) in one Hollywood movie, which is almost a miracle. Rounding up the female cast is Amber Heard as a potential love interest for Mike. She plays a budding photographer. America's got talent.

This bounty of accomplished women may be the reason why some are touting Magic Mike XXL as a feminist movie. Apparently, in our sad little world any movie that treats women with the minimum of respect now qualifies as feminist. I would not go that far. Magic Mike XXL is an unabashedly female-oriented fantasy where sensitive men (who all happen to be straight) work hard to please women. Mike even claims that his God is a she (aww)! Meanwhile, women shower the strippers with dollar bills. If only they weren't getting 1/3 less of every dollar men earn!

Throwing money at the sight of beefcake may be empowering enough for some, but Magic Mike XXL also reminds us that women need a modicum of narrative and production values to get off—unlike men, who like to cut to the chase.

The film aims hard to please its female and its gay audience (Magic Mike has an inner drag queen, mind you). The only constituency it ignores is straight guys, who could learn something from Magic Mike.

LOGISTICS: Magic Mike XXL, wow shaking its thing at a theater near you

Yehudit Mam has been in love with movies since her mom took her to see Krakatoa, East of Java when she was a little girl. She is a film blogger, a creative director in advertising, and cofounder of dada.nyc.