If we're gonna get nasty, baby
First we'll show and tell
Till I reach your ponytail
Lurk all over and through you baby
Until I reach your stream
You'll be on my jockey team
Have you ever actually listened to the lyrics of Ginuwine’s Pony? They’re truly filthy.
Though I hadn’t seen the original Magic Mike, I got the impression while watching the sequel that Mike’s Pony dance (maybe that should be in capital letters, actually: The Pony Dance) was some kind of transcendental moment in that first movie, and critically important in the ontogenesis of his character. It is regularly mentioned during Magic Mike XXL.
There’s a lot of talking, actually. To paint the plot in broad brush strokes, this is a movie about some very angsty male strippers who embark on a trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
They are off to a convention. Though the boys insist earlier in the movie that they be called ‘male entertainers’ and not ‘strippers’, when they get to their destination there is a big sign saying Myrtle Beach Stripper Convention so I was a bit surprised they didn’t get offended and head straight back to Florida, where their odyssey began.
Golly, I hope I’m not giving away too many spoilers.
Mike, who is played by the bulgy Channing Tatum and presumably gets an XXL after his name because he has an extra, extra large peen (it may have been augmented since the first film, hence the new letters), has been out of the male entertainment game for three years. In that time he has been working as a sexy removalist slash handyman, but when his bros pass through town he gets the itch to strip once more.
This reawakening of his urge to clothes-purge is illustrated by my favourite scene in the movie, when Mike XXLpeen is alone in his workshop, just grinding some shit, and Pony starts playing on his Spotify. As those classic lines ring out (‘Send chills up and down your spine, juices flowing down your thigh’), our hero can’t help but break out into a – really quite impressive – sexy solo workshop dance routine.
And before you can say ‘my saddle’s waiting, come jump on it’, he’s on the road to Myrtle Beach to help the bros fulfil their quest. The point of going to the convention is never really made clear, aside from it being ‘one last ride’. It’s about the journey and not the destination, of course, but at least we knew why Dorothy was off to see the wizard, for example, or that Ulysses was trying to get back to Penelope.
At this point I must admit that while I wasn’t particularly looking forward to seeing lots of intimidating and mostly naked male bodies, I at least thought MMXXL would be somewhat clever and funny. Really, though, it was just a bit of a drag. We learn that all of the strippers, while perfect on the outside, have dreams and broken hearts and jealousy issues. These are explored at great length, but at no point do these discussions go beyond fluffy platitudes. The excitement level in the mostly female audience (FINE, I WAS THE ONLY GUY) was high as the opening credits rolled, but this faded as we were subjected to numerous ‘character-development’ scenes that were just flat and awkwardly executed. I can’t believe I’m saying there should have been more male stripping, but… there should have been more male stripping – those were the only times the movie had any real vitality.
A bubblegum-feminist ethos is shoehorned into this movie to indulge its female demographic in the same way Megan Fox’s perfect stomach was shoehorned into the Transformers movie to indulge horny teenage boys. That is, blatantly, unapologetically and fairly crassly. And yes, I hyperlinked to that Megan Fox scene purely so I could watch it again. Not that there’s anything wrong with pandering to your audience, it’s what Hollywood does. ‘My God is a She,’ says Mike XXLpeen at one point. There is a whole, protracted, First Wives’ Club scene involving Andie McDowall and her gal pals that was obviously squeezed in to cater to the older ladies who have been left jaded by love. Our ecdysiasts learn from Childish Gambino that it’s important to listen to women. Who would have thought? It’s weighty stuff.
What did I learn from this movie? That even though Tatum is a crap actor, the man has moves. That the world of male stripping is pretty melancholy when there’s no stripping going on. And that, in the end, girls are just the same as guys; none of us know how we’re supposed to act while getting a lapdance.
Image credit: Magic Mike XXL