The reviews had made it clear that Magic Mike XXL is a wank and a throwaway, but with the otherwise-engaged Steven Soderbergh having shot and cut it I expected something slick and semi-cool — a movie in which nothing happens but with intriguing detours and a louche, hang-loose attitude. It’s about a group of lightweight hot bods (Channing Tatum, Matt Bomer, Kevin Nash, Adam Rodriguez, Joe Manganiello) making their way from Tampa to Myrtle Beach to compete in a male-stripper contest…and that’s all. Okay, maybe. But a feeling of waste and nothingness welled up as I watched this piece of shit yesterday afternoon. I began with stirrings of mild irritation but had worked up a fairly angry lather in less than 30 minutes. N.Y. Times critic A.O. Scott had the nerve to call this “a coherent and rigorous theory of pleasure that is also an absolute blast” — a statement I honestly feel he should not only be ashamed of but should atone for.
Movies about “nothing” (i.e., those lacking conventional dramatic tension or a payoff) can work nicely if done right. This may sound fogeyish but my idea of an agreeable easygoing movie about floating along and never really coming to a boil is Fred Zinneman‘s The Sundowners. Yes, Magic Mike XXL fails the Sundowners test. And I’m not just saying it doesn’t belong in the same sentence as the original Magic Mike (which I called “one of those summer films that comes along once in a blue moon — a fun romp filled with yoks and swagger and whoo-hoo, but also sharp, wise and shrewdly observed, and flush with indie cred”). I’m saying it’s a film that smirks and piddles around but also pisses on you. A big yellow stream shooting out of the screen and onto my lap.
I actually experienced a Purple Rose of Cairo moment yesterday afternoon. Channing Tatum stopping playing Mike and looked out at me in my sixth-row seat and said, “Got ya…well, I know you hate the movie but we got your money, I mean. Right? You’re $15 dollars poorer and we’re $15 richer. You think I give a shit if you like this thing or not? You think movies like Magic Mike just grow on trees?”