Things being what they are in The Modern Cinema, remakes and sequels abound, and while most are made purely for money, there is an art to the remake and/or sequel. Without getting sidetracked by theory and so forth, there is a (deceptively) simple principle involved: if in the business of producing “more of the same,” then refine the “same” to as fine and pure a version possible. How exactly this refinement is to be compassed must be determined case by case, but it was achieved to absolute perfection in Magic Mike XXL.
Now, I really liked the first Magic Mike. Claiming to be the first to predict its becoming a massive hit is impossible (also self-aggrandizing and beside the point), but it was obvious to me from a very early point that it was going to go over very well, because it was a movie made by talented people and starring beautiful (and talented) people, preoccupied in every meaningful way with pleasure. Not guilty pleasure, not transgressive or sinful pleasure, but pure, sensual, physical pleasure. There is a certain amount of attention paid to the context—there is a plot, some cogent rumination on the commodification of beauty, and the like—but the most memorable aspects of the movie were the ones involving Channing Tatum and friends dancing to entertain women.
The genius of the sequel is in realizing that everyone who wants to see a Magic Mike sequel wants to see beautiful men dancing, women's desires being satisfied, and, well, beautiful men satisfying women's desires, mostly by dancing. So that's the whole movie. The guys are on their way to a stripper convention a ways up I-95, and they go there, making a handful of stops solely focused on making women happy. Perfectly so.
The human condition consists, to put it in perhaps overly harsh terms, in attempting to perceive the world through an organic cloud, encased in a mortal body of flesh and blood and roiling chemicals, all of which primarily serve, in their undirected and undirectable way, to mute the light of the (for the lack of secular synonym) divine. Every so often, the sun breaks through and we see a limitless light and warmth, an extraordinary and glorious and overwhelming “yes” that envelops all we can perceive. These glimpses are mainly just that, to our mortal and finite way of reckoning, and because what the glimpse is of is something indescribable by normal means, the scientific attempts to get at the empirical nature of the feeling are too prosaic and literal, inadequate in scope. Breaking through to that level of complete and utter joy is for the most part a matter of trial and error, but the arts, and specifically the arts focused on entertaining, are on the task. The creators of Magic Mike XXL seem to have it sorted out, though, because the whole fucking movie is basically a gently guided tour through realms of pure pleasure.
Upon its initial release, a lot of very good words were written about the way Magic Mike XXL upends gender, fucks with it, repurposes masculinity, exalts the feminine while never separating it from the human, and so on. I would maintain that it does something even more profound and simple, in putting forth the proposition that it is better to love each other and derive pleasure from giving pleasure, and to dwell in a positive and optimistic realm than it is to do otherwise. I think this movie's ability to get at something as elemental and wholly positive as this is something not to be taken lightly, and indeed to be revered. Few movies I've ever seen have ever, with equal care and abandoned, stripped away the shrouds of mortal care and danced forth nakedly into the sublime as this one. It is a pure glowing orb of absolute fucking ecstasy.
God bless everyone involved with making this thing exist.