(MATURE CONTENT WARNING) What better way is there to spend Canada Day than with a hundred screaming women (ages 20 to 70) in a suburban theatre watching the Channing Tatum sequel to the very successful Magic Mike?
We are in an exciting and interesting time here in Ontario. The Ontario Progressive party under its new young and vigorous leader, Patrick Brown, is trying to evolve and grow from its deep rural roots and become more progressive, more suburban, more urbane, and apparently more tolerant and inclusive. And definitely more LGBTQ.
Hence the very successful, loud, proud Conservative contingent of 60+ strong, led by Brown and his feisty colleague Ontario PC MPP Lisa MacLeod, in the recent Toronto Pride Parade.
And so it also just seems fitting to review a strangely compelling male stripper flick here in the deeply blue conservative, but highly iconoclastic pages of the Rebel.
Magic Mike XXL is clearly superior to the original Magic Mike. Okay, it is no Godfather II. But then again Godfather III was no Godfather II.
Magic Mike, in addition to starring Channing Tatum as Magic Mike - handyman by day and male stripper by night - also starred suddenly hot-again Mathew McConaughey as Dallas, the sleazy strip club owner and manager of the male stripping troupe, the “Kings of Tampa.”
This film was part female fantasy (half-naked, hard-bodied male strippers,) part romantic comedy as (Magic Mike trying to woo Brooke, his stripper buddy’s sister) and part moralistic drama, as one Mike’s young stripper protégés becomes too heavily involved in drugs and the stripper lifestyle, with its (apparently!) attendant violence.
Though directed by indie great Steven Soderbergh, the film did not hang together and was mostly forgettable. Magic XXL, on the hand, is more focused, with a simpler but more interesting and meaningful storyline.
Gone is the sleazy, over the top acting of McConaughey.
In this film, the boys are back, with the “Kings of Tampa” taking centre stage - both literally and figuratively. The male strippers from Magic Mike - now self-identified as male entertainers -include aptly named Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello,) Tarzan (Kevin Nash,) Tito (Adam Rodriquez) and Ken (Matt Bomer.)
The story focuses on a male strippers’ convention at Myrtle Beach, which may be the Kings of Tampa’s last show together: Some of these guys are getting a little long in the tooth -Tarzan, though still a strapping example of manhood, appears to be suffering from arthritic knees whenever he deep bends and painfully whips off his tearaway pants to expose his skimpy Speedos.
Others have outside business interests which demand their full attention - Magic Mike’s growing custom furniture business, Ken’s acting career and Tito’s start-up mobile frozen yogurt operation. Sensing that this may be their last hurrah - and the last time they each experience hundreds of screaming women sticking sweaty dollars bills in their jockeys - the boys embark on one last road trip from Tampa to Myrtle Beach.
The high point of the film, at least for me, is when these guys are cracking wise, bonding, kibitzing on and off the bus, and coming clean to each other and to us, the audience. We learn that Tarzan is a painter, a Marine and Desert Storm veteran, and Ken is a sensitive, struggling actor trying to increase his online presence. (I can certainly relate to that.)
Big Dick Richie reveals to his buddies that, though he's a great-looking guy with tons of female admirers, he has not had sex in six months because he possesses a tragic flaw - an unusually ginormous member that apparently intimidates and repels all potential female partners.
Magic Mike also reveals that though he owns a home, a dog and a thriving furniture business, he cannot find his one true love with whom to settle down and produce award-winning underwear models, Brooke having exited stage left along with Dallas since the original film.
During this memorable road trip, the boys are invited back to a fancy southern plantation where they entertain 40-something, sexually frustrated southern belles led by Nancy (the still beautiful and radiant Andie MacDowell,) providing life affirming and empowering advice and pleasure, while gyrating and singing boy band covers.
Big Dick Richie and Nancy hook up, as Richie has finally found his opposite number, that one elusive woman who fits the proverbial glass slipper. Her yin to his wang, so to speak.
As in all great cinematic cheerleader competitions (Bring it On) or a cappella sing-offs, (Pitch Perfect 1 and 2) the boys realized that they must re-invent themselves and their numbers. Take risks. Throw out their tired old routines and create entirely new ones that truly reflect their passions and their identities for a broader audience.
In much the same way, Brown’s new and invigorated Ontario PC Party, after four consecutive and devastating electoral defeats, have had to throw out the old routines, the old advisers and the old way of doing politics and looking at politics. Electoral success has not been won in the past and will not be won in the future by merely energizing your hard core but declining conservative rural base.
As a straight heterosexual male, I was not moved by the male entertainers’ onstage performances per se, but I can see this film’s overall and broad appeal to both women and the LGBTQ community, and the subversive charm of these guys who simply want to bring fun and joy to their female customers’ lives - and also to their core gay viewing public.
But I did enjoy the male bonding, joking and camaraderie among the bros and the very funny and strong cameo appearances by such strong actresses as MacDowell, Jada Pinkett Smith and Elizabeth Banks. Not only does the film sequel hit a home run with its core gay and female audience, I believe it will successfully resonate with straight dudes, young and not so young as well, for the above reasons.
The lesson of Magic Mike XXL for Brown’s Ontario PC Party is to still appeal to the base, but also to take risks, be innovative, be different and go after those outside the base, for greater political appeal, support and ultimate political success. Also, a stuffed tube sock down the y-fronts might help; we can't all be Big Dick Richie, after all.
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