If you want a picture of the future, imagine Channing Tatum grinding his crotch in a human face, forever.
You think I exaggerate? Between this cringe-worthy jamboree of dim-bulb manflesh (and that of the first film, which wasn't even this embarrassing) and Fifty Shades of Grey's celebration of abuse as romantic, Hollywood has gotten a warped idea about What Women Want. Expect more of it, soon. Because plenty of women have embraced these things. I console myself with the thought that we women are so unused to being catered to by The Movies that many of us welcome even distorted attempts at it. Like how black audiences embrace Tyler Perry's minstrel shows.
Or else I'm just extra weird, and I need to add this to the list of ladyness things I am doing wrong. Maybe women really do want this stuff, and I am a failure at performing my gender. I don't understand why random men taking their clothes off in front of a crowd in public is automatically sexy. If anything, Magic Mike XXL is an unintentional parody of Sexy, an unwitting send-up of caricatures of men and women and sex and attraction that so much of pop culture — including advertising! — is built on. But we're meant to swallow this straight-faced and unconditionally.
Oh, and let's not even get into how the male strippers here aren't even as naked as women in movies that aren't about stripping tend to be. Even playing at being Sexy, this movie is still blind — maybe deliberately, maybe accidentally — to the differences in how Hollywood treats men and women in this regard. If male nudity without any context of character or situation is meant to appeal to women, then why aren't the men nude?
Not that I need to see Channing Tatum's penis. That wouldn't make me like this movie any more. But still.
I wonder if screenwriter Reid Carolin, returning from Magic Mike, read my review of the first film, because many of my complaints about it — like how it all but ignored women and couldn't even be cheesy about dudes stripping — appear to have been addressed. Though not in ways that make XXL any more interesting or entertaining, so probably I have continued to be unheeded in my time. The cheese factor has been ramped up considerably, and much of it results in "humor" which isn't funny, and much that is downright undignified, like how the new routines the "Kings of Tampa" develop for their last-hurrah performance are the stuff of bad amateur porn: an ice-cream man who wants to lick chocolate sauce off your thighs; a groom who ends your wedding by strapping you into a sex harness. (See? 'Cuz all women fantasize about getting married!) The nods to how women react to men stripping ranges from the inexplicable — Jada Pinkett Smith as the Kings' MC asking female audiences if they are ready to be "worshiped," which doesn't make any sense — to the utterly mansplainy, as in the scene in which two men discuss why (they imagine) women like male strippers.
There isn't much of a story here. What there is is all cliché, half "one last job," half "hey, kids, let's put on a show," as the guys travel to a stripper convention (ugh) before disbanding for reasons that we never understand, especially because they all seem to love it so much. In place of story, we get phallic power tools, a man (Joe Manganiello) lamenting the unfortunate large size of his cock (XXL is a tragedy, yo), and strip shows by men who aren't even marginally "characters" like Tatum & Co. are. Cameras could have been set up in a Chippendales club and you'd be none the wiser. If that's your cup of tea, you might enjoy this. But I expect more from my movies... and from my men. Especially from my fantasy men. You wanna turn me on? Land a rover on Mars. Or make a great piece of art. And keep your clothes on until we're alone.