During my first year of college I would stumble out of bed every morning and immediately slump down in from of my computer to watch the trailer for the Liam Neeson classic, Taken. Neeson’s now instantly-recognizable phone call with his daughter’s kidnapper was my morning cup of coffee. It got me so excited that going back to sleep seemed impossible. By the time the breathy human trafficker hung up on the other end of the phone I was pumped up, wide awake and ready for the day ahead.
Taken didn’t get an Academy Award nominations and it’s never going to be part of the Criterion Collection, but that phone call is a moment of transcendent filmmaking. It’s the kind of moment that transfixes an audience and captures our attention so completely that we can completely lose sight of the fact that all we’re really doing is sitting down and staring in a dark room full of strangers.
Magic Mike XXL is one such moment after another. At times the magic (not an on-the-nose pun so much as a factually accurate account of the film) of it all was so over-the-top that I completely lost sight of the fact that I maybe one of three men in an absolutely packed movie theater with women standing and screaming and applauding and wooing and nullifying the air conditioning with their sheer body heat.
The sequel to Steven Soderbergh’s Tatum opus, XXL thrusts the male gyration up a notch, then down a notch, then up a notch, then down a notch, then… this time putting the titular Mike and his pack of male strippers on a road trip with a pinch of “one last job” stakes for good measure.
Like Taken, Magic Mike XXL is never going to associate with Oscar or Criterion. It’s not gut-wrenching or intellectually stimulating and quite frankly every now and then I was a little bored, but when it’s at the height of its powers Magic Mike XXL is an undeniable triumph, an exciting, hilarious, exhilarating movie that is entertaining to the core.
Magic Mike XXL is without a doubt one of the greatest movie-going experiences I have ever had. That being said, if you go see it and the theater isn’t full of middle-aged women, buy another ticket and try again. It’ll be worth it.
Also, there’s no dongs.