Beyond the Muscles – Why I Enjoyed Magic Mike XXL

A few months ago I went to the cinema with my sisters and some friends to watch Magic Mike XXL for a girls’ night out. I’ll admit, I wasn’t expecting much… other than the obvious visuals of male perfection in the form of Channing Tatum and friends.

In short, the movie tells the story of Mike Lane, who left his past as a stripper/male entertainer in the Kings of Tampa behind when he started his own custom design furniture business. Life isn’t going quite the way Mike hoped. His business is struggling to survive from month to month, he can’t afford health insurance for his sole employee, and he’s been dumped by his girlfriend. When his old pals (from the first Magic Mike movie) pass through town on their way to perform at a convention in Myrtle Beach, Mike decides to go along for the ride. Of course, this road trip is filled with comedy, drama and general chaos as they make their way to the convention. The movie ends on a high (seriously, I was hyperventilating) when the men all perform before a crowd of screaming women and a flurry of dollar bills.

By the time the movie ended I felt like I’d run a marathon, and I’m pretty sure all the women with me felt the same way. We’d spent the whole movie alternately laughing out loud, squealing, hiding behind our hands (but with fingers spread so we didn’t miss anything), sighing dreamily and generally losing our collective breath. In other words, we had an enormous amount of FUN! After the movie, we hung out at a cafe for an hour drinking coffee and talking incessantly about how much we’d enjoyed the movie.

But it wasn’t just Channing Tatum’s rippling abs, Joe Manganiello’s incredible everything, or Matt Bomer’s bone-melting voice that had me going home happy. There were a few deeper points that made me smile in delight, and I thought I’d share a few of them with you…

1. This movie celebrated the sexuality of ALL women

That’s right, there were women of all sizes, shapes, colours and ages throughout this movie and every single one of them were eager to enjoy our muscle-bound heroes. It was a beautiful thing.

2. Women with confidence, strength and personality were present and accounted for

This movie was brought to a whole new level by the presence of two incredible women: Jada Pinkett Smith and Andie McDowell.

I don’t care how straight you are, ten minutes in a room with Rome (played by the awesome Jada Pinkett Smith) will have you reevaluating your options. The Kings of Tampa could not have reached their goals in this movie without Rome and she owned that power for all it was worth.

As the newly single Nancy, Andie McDowell showed us a woman who was breaking free of the life she’d lived since she was seventeen. She was loud, proud, comfortable in her own skin and plenty woman enough to try Richie (played by the larger than life Joe Manganiello) on for size.

3. Richie (Joe Manganiello) had to work really hard to make the mini mart cashier smile

Richie is having a crisis of confidence when Mike assures him that he could make any woman smile, even the woman standing behind the counter at the mini mart who ‘looks like she’s never smiled in her life.’ Richie stalked into that mini mart determined to make that woman smile. And he did, but it took a full two minutes (that’s a long time in a movie), the assistance of The Backstreet Boys, a semi-erotic dance sequence and an added touch of humour to manage it. I thought that woman did a tremendous job holding out for that long.

4. Mike didn’t get the girl (necessarily)

Yes, there was a love interest for Mike in the form of Zoe (played by Amber Heard). Mike and Zoe were obviously attracted to each other and may have ended up going out, but that wasn’t what the movie was about. The character of Zoe was not presented as a trophy for Mike to ‘win’ at the end, but as a woman with her own path – problems, ambitions and all. Oh and her facial expressions when she found herself dragged onto the stage for Mike’s final performance were priceless.

5. It pushed a bunch of our romance buttons with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, and we loved it anyway

Yes please, I would love to be serenaded by a gorgeous man. I would love to be told I’m a goddess who should be worshipped. Yes, actually I do want a man to just come out and ask me what I want and then give it to me (yeah, okay, within the bounds of reason, but still). It’s true, men who believe violence is NOT the answer to sorting out problems with other men are incredibly attractive. And it does tickle me pink when a man refers to God as a woman.

6. And then there’s Channing Tatum. And Joe Manganiello. And Matt Bomer. And Adam Rodriguez. And Kevin Nash.

The men that made up the Kings of Tampa were gorgeous, talented, highly masculine and an absolute treat to behold. Each of these characters was still striving to find their place in the world and achieve ‘success’ in whatever form they saw it. As an audience member, I was rooting for every one of them to attain their dreams… as well as dance and take their clothes off (they were strippers/male entertainers, after all).

Magic Mike XXL is never going to be the kind of movie that you take seriously. It’s not meant to be! But I had so much fun watching it with the girls and even months later, the thought of it makes me smile in all the good ways.