Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Witz Flix: Magic Mike XXL

NOTE: I originally wrote this in April of 2017, but never posted it. I recently unearthed it, and decided that since social media is a constant hellscape and reminder of our daily nightmare, it was time to share it with the world as a momentary escape to a land of wonderment, friendship, and abs.

(Left to right: Tito, Ken, Mike, Richie, Tarzan)
Magic Mike XXL is the story of an ex-stripper (Channing Tatum) coming out of retirement for one. Last. Ride. Usually I write these posts about bad movies, but Magic Mike XXL is an exception. It’s so good, in fact, that it is getting me, a guy who has taken his clothes off at an amateur level, to come out of retirement for one. Last. Post. So, come along on a journey with the Kings of Tampa, down to the fabled stripper championships in Myrtle Beach. You won’t be sorry.

0:30 – Full disclosure: I saw the first Magic Mike and HATED it. I also don’t remember anything about it other than the acting was atrocious, the end was dumb, and I couldn’t believe Steven Soderbergh made it. So, don’t worry if you haven’t seen it—it’s irrelevant to the beauty of this sequel.

1:00 – Mike Lane (Tatum) is out of the game. He runs his own furniture business, and we see him moving furniture and collecting scrap for materials. The copper piping he hauls in his truck is the closest he’s been to a pole in three years.

2:00 – Any voicemail that begins, “It’s Tarzan,” is a voicemail worth listening to. Tarzan and the guys are coming through Tampa, so he wanted to give Mike a head’s up (stripper code). And he’s got some real bad news: “Dallas is gone, man.”

2:30 – For those of you who didn’t see the first film, Dallas was Matthew McConaughey’s character. It’s unclear if by gone he means “dead” or “not available for the sequel.”

3:30 – Mike goes to a motel expecting a wake for Dallas and instead finds the guys getting rowdy by the pool. His buddy, Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello) picks up Mike and throws him in the pool.

3:40 – Bare-ass naked, by the way. And here’s the thing about Magic Mike XXL that makes it so great: it might just be the most anti-homophobic movie ever made. It’s a celebration of male friendship and male physicality, without any of the cliché homophobic disclaimers or tropes that you’d expect from its characters.

4:30 – Dallas isn’t dead! He’s just “overseas” (probably filming Dallas Buyer’s Club, which he likely thought was some kind of very sad sequel to Magic Mike when he took the role…and might be?).

5:50 – Big Dick Richie actually says the line, “One last fuckin’ ride, baby!” God, I love this movie. They’re heading to The Convention in Myrtle Beach.

6:00 – BUT HOW ARE THEY GONNA DO THAT WITHOUT DALLAS?? “Tobias is gonna MC” they say, referring to the character played by Gabriel Inglesias, who immediately drops an, “Alright, alright, alright,” impression, which I think means the 4th and 5th walls are both shattered and we’re not even ten minutes in.

Ken (Matt Bomer)
6:30 -  They also keep showing one crazy-lookin’ stripper named Ken (Matt Bomer), who just keeps mad doggin’ Mike and clearly isn’t happy to have him back.

8:25 – Mike’s back home, just minding his own business in his workshop. He throws on some face protection and fires up the soldering iron, when his playlist starts playing the intro to what is unmistakably Genuwine’s masterpiece, "My Pony". Uh-oh. That’s Mike’s song.

8:30 – Mike’s head slowly raises up, still wearing his helmet. “No. Uhn-uh. Nah,” his shaking head says. But "My Pony" ain’t havin’ it. “Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah,” the song literally replies. Mike flips up his mask, moves around the table, flips it down and starts grinding metal to the beat. Sparks start flying from the flagrantly phallic rod. He can’t fight it anymore. Off comes the face protection.

9:00 – Mike laughs a little to himself. He walks over and sits down on a bench, still holding the piece of metal. And thus begins the single greatest scene in modern cinema. Dancers gonna dance.

9:30 – When an artist is said to fully utilize the canvas, this is what it means. Mike’s poppin’ and lockin’ and spinnin’ and hoppin’ all over the place. One minute he’s swinging around on a load-bearing beam, and the next he’s grinding on his table, drill in hand. That’s how dedicated he is to his art: he’s just drilling holes in a perfectly good table he built, simply because the dance demands it. There’s no audience. Just a man, his workshop, and sexual innuendo. I bet you’ve never been as passionate about anything as Magical Michael is about stripper dancing.

10:00 – Welp, you’re either all in or you’re probably out at this point. Still with me? Alright, alright, alright…

10:15 – The guys are getting ready to roll out toward Myrtle, when a voice asks, “Got room for one more?” You bet your ass it’s Mike. And you bet your ass they do. Ken isn’t pleased. I feel some serious stripolitics are at play, here.

12:00 – How are they getting to Myrtle Beach? In a Fro-yo Food Truck! Tito (Adam Rodriguez) makes artisanal probiotic shakes and Tobias DJs. This moment is the closest this movie comes to the movie Chef, which is also good, but in a different way.

13:00 – Richie doesn’t like that Mikey’s on his phone replying to order requests for his business, so he throws his phone out the window. Mike’s pissed, but Richie says he better get on board because nobody’s messing with the mojo this trip. So, you know what? They’re going to Mad Mary’s.

15:30 – It’s drag night at Mad Mary’s and they’ve got $400 for the best amateur Queen in Jacksonville.

18:00 – Sorry, actual amateurs and actual drag queens who wanted to win that contest, but the guys go up one after each other, and Gabriel Inglesias brings home the $400. If I was there, I’d be so pissed. It’s like, someone has been waiting all week, thinking about this moment, and then five professional male strippers and Gabriel Inglesias hop on stage, twirl around a little, and the dream is dead.

20:00 – Real talk: come Monday morning, Tito’s back to pulling snow cones at the mall, and Richie’s back to raking Tropicana field, which probably isn’t even a thing. Tito has a big idea though: “Condomints”. It’s a package of condoms and mints, so you have everything you need for your weekend. This conversation ensues in my house:

ME: Hey, didn’t I have an idea like that—that combined two products with a clever name?
KATIE: Yeah.
ME: What was it?
KATIE: Babe--you couldn’t pay me to remember all the shit that you say…

So, yeah, we’ve still got the passion. Back to the movie:

21:30  - Ken and Mike are talking and Ken says, “It’s like Oprah says man, when someone shows you who they are, believe them.” I immediately spiral into a dizzying rage about Trump and then come back in time to see Mike tell Ken to hit him so the air is cleared, and he does. But he’s not happy about it. “There are a lot better ways to handle shit like that.”

23:30 – Channing Tatum is peeing by the tall grass (which is how you die in Oregon Trail), when a girl starts taking photos behind him. “That’s…usually what happens when I pee on the beach,” he “quips”, except I believe him. They start flirting and talking about inner drag queens and Mike casually drops a Grace Jones reference.

STUDIO EXECS: And who, exactly, is this movie’s target audience?
DIRECTOR: Everyone. Absolutely everyone.

29:00 – It’s morning and they’re all coming to. Ken’s been meditating, and he and Mike discuss life after The Convention. You might find this hard to believe, but the future after stripping is bleak for these guys. I would have written the line, “Life’s rough, man. One minute you’re stripping, the next you’re just…getting undressed. It’s depressing, bro.”

29:30 – Tito and Richie stumble back to the food truck. “You bangy?” Mike asks. Not for nothing, but this is a food truck full of male strippers who just had sex with strangers on a beach, and “You bangy?” is THEIR “Locker Room Talk.” Tito did bangy. Richie didn’t bangy on account of his ginormous dick. It freaks girls out. He’s down about it, but surely there’s a Large Vagina Vanessa out there for him, right?

30:15 – They get back on the road, pass into Georgia, and Tobias gives everyone molly. I think it’s worth noting at this point that Tampa to Myrtle is an 8.5 hour drive. They could have completed the entirety of the road trip while I was at work.

33:00 – Mike tries to get them to come up with new routines for their last Convention. He’s asking Richie why he dresses like a fireman and dances to Hotter Than Hell when he’s scared of fire and doesn’t like that song. We get a classic, “There is no fucking universe in which I am not doing that fireman routine!” crash cut to “54 Minutes Later”, and while I love this movie, the weakest link is the font selection here. Pretty sure they used Courier New and said, “We’ll edit it later” and just never did.

33:30 – Molly kicked in, they’re ready to evolve. They’re also at a gas station. To get Richie to have faith in his ability to change his routine, they send him into the gas station to dance his big dick off until the lady at the register smiles. This movie uses dancing in all the right ways.

36:00 – I’m not even going to describe what just happened. You’ve got to watch it. Needless to say, they’re making new routines.

39:00 – They’re all bonding and holding hands while Toby drives, then all close their eyes to feel the energy and Toby drives the truck off the road into the woods and totals it. So yeah, MOM, you were right when you told me never to take molly in a fro-yo truck while on the highway with my friends.

41:00 – Tobias is out of commission with a concussion, so they’re leaving him in the hospital. “All I wanted was one last ride!” Richie laments. We know, Richie, we know. “This is another bad idea, but…I think I know an MC in Savannah” Mike announces. Looks like we’re going to Savannah!

44:00 – Mike takes them to a fancy strip-club mansion run by a woman named Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith). He’s a bit scared because he used to dance at this place before it was so fancy. Rome seems to be in charge of the joint, and is pretty upset—probably because every time she has sex, the guy makes a “When in Rome” joke.

44:30 – Stripper culture is really mysterious.

45:00 – Rome explains how her “club works”, describing how religion worked in ancient Rome and how she applied that to her establishment, but all she really needed to say was, “You ever belong to a gym? It’s like that, but for watching male strippers.” We’re all familiar with clubs, Rome.

46:20 – Why does that stripper look familiar? OH, it’s because it’s MICHAEL FUCKING STRAHAN! Buckle up, chuckle fucks, Mister Augustus is about to blow your minds. And he’s super serious about it.

52:00 – If you didn’t think Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino was gonna freestyle about recent divorcee, Caroline, you were flat-out wrong, friend.

54:00 – Rome thinks the Convention is some bullshit. Mike wants her to MC to get rid of the tension between them. He says he didn’t bail on her, he took a job and she wouldn’t let him back in the house. Since he’s a meat man, it’s unclear if that means they dated or if she was keeping a stable of strippers around.

56:00 – Rome asks the women at the club what she should do. “Should she leave that ghost in his grave” (not how ghosts work) “or give him an opportunity to be resurrected” (also not how ghosts work).

57:00 – She wants Mike (previously known as White Chocolate) to dance for his dinner. Inexplicably, despite being a stripper in a strip club, he doesn’t want to and says, “C’mon, let’s not do this…” Rome has another guy start dancing with a girl. “You got this man,” his friends say, and he flips (literally) into the fray.

59:00 – Magic Mike proceeds to do things that wouldn’t be okay to do in a gym. As he dances, he lets it all out, dancing with this woman, dancing with that one, now that one, now that one, clearly in a flow state--what athletes call “winning time”; unleashing his art on all the women in the room until it’s clear that Mike operates on another level from the rest of them. It’s dangerous, it’s exciting, it’s something pure in this convoluted and ugly world of ours.

60:00 – I WILL say it leaves me wondering what the club’s waiver has in it.

64:00 – The guys get a ride up to Charleston with Donald Glover, and end up at a huge (read: plantation) house. This is supposed to be where the girl Tito hooked up with lives, but when they walk inside they find Andie McDowell and her friends. They’re all, “Oh, we’re sorry, we’ll just go—,“and she’s all, “NO! STAY! And why couldn’t this have been my Groundhog Day?”

67:00 – Andie McDowell’s daughter walks in with her friends and it turns out one of them is the girl
who took photos of Mike peeing at the beach. She goes to get more wine from the basement and Mike goes to help, saying, “I have arms, I’ll help,” which is the only line less obvious than, “Gravity moves objects downward, so I’ll go, too.”

73:00 – Everyone’s drinking and sharing stories about their sex lives and relationships which leads to Ken singing Heaven by Bryan Adams and dancing with the shy, sad woman who’s never had sex with her husband with the lights on AND STILL NOBODY SEEMS TO NOTICE THAT KEN LOOKS LIKE AMERICAN PSYCHO. Seriously, he looks like the last thing you see.

75:15 – Channing Tatum proves it time and time again: the man knows how to deliver a line. He found the absolute best way to say, “No, I’m a cookie guy.” No better delivery of that dessert joke. And if you’re reading this still, you better already be making plans to watch this movie and hear it for yourself.

76:45 – Photography girl is sad because she got played by a married photographer who offered her a job, so now Mike is trying to get her to come to Myrtle Beach for the Convention. Ya know, everyone’s so psyched about Myrtle Beach, but I went there for spring break in college, and the only memories I have are of a recurring Arby’s promo at a minor league baseball game that loudly announced “Roooooooaaaaaaast beeeeeeeeeeef!” over the PA, and me and my Jewish friends being told we couldn’t go into the bar with everyone else. I’m not saying I wouldn’t murder a kitten in its sleep to travel back to that care-free time of my youth, I’m just saying it’s not THAT awesome.

77:00 – Channing Tatum says his God “is a she” which sounds all feminist until you remember that he’s probably talking about Alanis Morissette in Dogma because “Jay and Silent Bob are funny as shit.”

80:00 – it’s morning and Andie McDowell got down with Bick Dick Richie! What a magical world we live in when a male entertainer from Florida can find his “glass slipper” of an older, wealthy divorcee in Charleston, South Carolina. Move Disneyworld to Charleston, I say! Who needs the Disney castle when you have that charming Confederate Flag?

80:30 – She gives them her ex-husband’s car to drive to Myrtle. Somewhere in the world, Phil Connors sighs and takes another drink of scotch in an empty motel room.

81:00 – They get to the Convention hotel and Rome is waiting for Mike along with Donald Glover. It’s all happening!

83:00 – Now that the whole crew is together, a montage begins...I just have no idea what this montage is about. I thought they were creating new routines, but they’re also buying ice cream sundae supplies, screwing some metal tables together, singing…this could go anywhere.

85:00 – You know how I know I’m old? They finally show the Convention Center with a packed parking lot and my immediate reaction is: they better leave before this thing is over or they’re never getting out of there.

85:30 – It’s E-B! Elizabeth Banks is in charge of registration and guess who didn’t registrate? The goddamn Kings of Tampa, that’s who!

86:00 – “You don’t even have an MC, what am I supposed to do?” I get the feeling in the land of strippers, the person who can talk into a microphone coherently is king.

87:00 – Rome steps forward and is like, “Yes they do,” and Elizabeth Banks’ mind explodes. They nuzzle each other and then Banks declares, “This woman taught me everything I know.” About registering contestants?

88:00 – We’re finally at the Convention which means we’re at the part of the movie that most closely overlaps with Bring It On and Pitch Perfect. But like, with half-naked men and a buttload of abs, which is also my new band’s name.

89:00 – Fuckin’ amateur hour out on stage where a poorly choreographed, shoddily written strip-skit about Twilight has the crowd cheering. Must have been written and directed by Steven Soderbergh.

89:30 – Rome steps into the huddle to say, “It’s not bro time, it’s showtime,” which I like, and will use a lot in the coming weeks, but what she doesn’t get is that with this group, it’s BOTH.

90:00 – Elizabeth Banks is the contest MC. Is it just me or is Elizabeth Banks in an inordinate number of roles where she announces contests?

90:30 – Ummmmmm, Elizabeth Banks just said, “Now I know this is not a competition, but y’all are gonna go home with one of your favorites tonight.” Is this NOT a competition? What have we been working toward?

 91:00 – Wow, Mike has serious…adjective recognition? “He’s a magical little dancer,” and the crowd goes nuts. It’s just cool to see the fans so into the culture.

93:00 – THE MOMENT IS UPON US! The group comes out to a hip-hop mashup of what I think is the Star Wars: The Phantom Menace theme, and then the solos begin. Starting with Tarzan:

94:00 – Tarzan’s solo is high-concept, minimal stripping. He’s dressed as an artist circa the Renaissance, he’s painting, he’s twirling, he rips his shirt off, and he throws a bucket of glitter at the canvas, which produces the message “My Goddess” as the glitter sticks. It’s creative, it’s classy, I give it 3.5 out of 5 man thongs.

96:00 – Tito comes out to Candy Shop, dancing around, pulling three women up on stage, and slathering them in hot fudge which he licks off, and then finishes by spraying whipped cream all over them. I’ll say this, the montage is making a lot more sense. Not as much stripping as there was sundae making: 3 out of 5 popped maraschino cherries.

98:00 – Ken comes out to a smooth R&B number, which he sings himself while gyrating and grinding up on various women in the crowd. Top hat, tank top, ass-less chaps, won’t stop. 4 out of 5 falsetto climaxes.

101:00 – Richie comes out in a full tux, and moves his way Double-Dare/Billie on the Street style through an obstacle course of wedding moments. It’s his molly-induced fantasy act. As he and his new bride walk up on stage toward a sex swing that used to be made of conference room tables (montage!), things turn dark, the lilting pop song fades out, and Nine Inch Nails’ Closer comes on. Richie grinds up on his beloved bride like only a man in a relationship that has fully exhausted their sexual options in the years preceding their wedding night can. The crowd goes nuts. 4.5 out of 5 diamond cock rings.

104:00 – Just Mike left to go. This is it. Don’t get scared now.

109:00 – I’m currently unironically slow-clapping. They don’t call him Magic Mike for nothing, folks. Mike and one of the guys from Rome’s club get on the stage that is set up like a mirror in the middle. The photographer and another girl get pulled up on stage, and the two entertainers leave it all out there, mirroring each other’s dancing, high-fiving in the middle, and acrobatically flipping themselves and the girls around.

110:00 - They gave everyone what they came to see. I will no longer call these men strippers, for they truly are entertainers. There’s even a callback to Mike liking cookies. “Looks like someone got their smile back,” Mike says at the end. You’re goddamn right, I did, Michael. You’re goddamn right I did. 5 out of 5 borderline sexual assaults.

110:30 - If I did any of the things Channing Tatum just did, each of the girls would have been kicked in the face about forty times, I would have pulled both hamstrings, and I’d have a migraine by the end, but it’d be too late in the night to take Excedrin because of all the caffeine it has. That reminds me, leaving that parking lot’s gonna be a bitch.

112:00 – I wish I could end on that note, but as the music keeps rolling, we flash forward to the rest of the night where the gang is out on the boardwalk, loving life and each other, hugging and laughing. Gabriel Inglesias returns and they’re all super happy to see him, especially since he missed the Convention and would have been unimaginably worse than Rome was. As "All I Do is Win" plays, fireworks go off in the distance, and the guys come together to watch, leaning on the railing of the boardwalk, lights shining in their eyes, like at the end of Ocean’s Eleven—only these guys were better, because they didn't even need pants to fulfill their dreams. Crash to black. 

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