Jump On It

A Magic Mike retrospective

The Magic Mike series will go down as one of the most curious cases in recent film history. Why do I say that? Well, let me ask you this. What comes to mind right away when I mention the movie Magic Mike

My guess would be something along the lines of, “Yeah, isn’t that the movie with the male strippers where Channing Tatum dances to that one song about riding a pony?” And you wouldn’t be wrong. 

That description is true to a fairly large extent, but I’d say it’s a little disingenuous to chock the film up as just the “fun male stripper movie.” 

Upon revisiting it, I found it tells a really engaging and relevant story; one about trying to accomplish your dreams while, at the same time, having to work a dead-end job in order to pay the bills. It just so happens that dead-end job requires humping the faces of rowdy female patrons. 

Looking past the story and subject matter though, the film is also directed well by our guy Steven Soderbergh. He brings a natural and raw approach to storytelling, and I found it to work wonders. 

The original Magic Mike is somewhat of an underrated gem. Its 2015 sequel, on the other hand, is an entirely different case. Subtitled XXL, because extra large wasn’t big enough I suppose, this film is the, “fun male stripper movie” most people view the first as. 

Soderbergh didn’t return to direct this one and without him, the nuanced exploration of male entertainers and their place within society at large was also absent. Though, that isn’t to say that automatically makes this a bad film. 

For what it is I think it’s still a good bit of fun. Even if it is the cinematic equivalent of empty calories. 

The film’s lasting legacy, however, is probably going to end up being its cast which hosts, alongside those returning from the first, some truly interesting and head-scratching inclusions. 

Headlined by a pre-Atlanta Donald Glover, Jada, “My Husband Slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars for Me” Pinkett Smith, director of the forthcoming Cocaine Bear, Elizabeth Banks, and 2007 Super Bowl champion for the mighty Giants of New York, Michael Strahan. Amber Heard is also in it, but I’m not confident I have the comedic prowess to make an appropriate joke at her expense. 

Anyway, this all leads us to the latest, and ideally the final, entry in the series: Magic Mike’s Last Dance. With Soderbergh back in the director’s chair, I was quite excited to see how this one was going to turn out, but upon first viewing I found this film to be a bit of a mixed bag. 

The story this time around revolves around the titular Michael Jeffery Lane who’s left broke after the Covid pandemic killed off his custom furniture business. After being persuaded to give a very intimate dance to Salma Hayek’s recently divorced Maxandra Mendoza, the odd couple makes their way over to London in order to helm the production of an old-school stage play. 

That synopsis doesn’t exactly sound like it has anything to do with male stripping. So what are we left with? I found the real meat and potatoes of the film to stem from how out of depth the central characters were with their surrounding circumstances. 

Mike’s a fish out of water, and he, alongside Maxandra, is tasked with the enormous undertaking of completely reinventing this old-timey play. Just seeing the two of them struggle to turn their vision into a reality was decently captivating. 

Also, with this film releasing so close to Valentine’s Day, there’s an emphasis placed on the relationship or, more accurately, the situation-ship between the two leads. It’s executed… alright, but it does help the film fit the bill of a date movie you can bring your significant other to. 

So in that regard, some credit is due. In the end though, while this movie does have Soderbergh’s fingerprints all over it, I’m not sure if the whole thing fully comes together to create anything worth great praise. 

It honestly feels more like a sequel to the Step Up movies Tatum used to star in. Remember those?

Leave a Reply