Let me start by saying MAGIC MIKE XXL is so far the best film of the year. It’s vigorous and refreshing, it is what the filmmakers say it is, and it is perhaps one of the best photographed films of recent memory – wait, what? Steven Soderbergh shot the whole thing? It figures. Don’t just sweepingly take those prescriptive words of the wise – a film does not always rely on a carefully evened out narrative, some pictures stride just as remarkably on the magic and authenticity of free-form. To call this film about (sorry, not playing the ageism game) male entertainers (PC, yes) who go on for one last stripping and gyrating ride plotless is obtuse and reductive. There’s more to XXL than what scores the pesky criteria card. Besides, all these talks about plot is so 2-0-1-2.

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ABSOLUTELY NO CARD AGAINST ANYTHING, ANYONE

Its eagerness is authentic. You have well-meaning boys who exist for the moment and get together to do what they do best – entertain women, with or without their clothes on. There’s just no space for petty moping around and complaining about life and its unfair comeuppances most of the time. There’s no superfluously spotlighting on a huge moment to drop in a gigantic ball of existential dilemmas. The boys are well aware that their individual and separate lives are simply to move on to a new journey, no matter how irresolute the future is after the last trip. It looks, feels, and sounds like joining in on the Fro-Yo Bus yourself and getting a chance to observe how genuine, messy, unrehearsed, and unexpected the whole ride unfolds. Front-row lap numbers included. If you expected the boys doing the Mean Girls attitude as they criticize the Jada Pinkett Smith Strippers for seemingly lacking erudite routines, you might as well watch a Louie episode with all the superior attitude against hacks that mistreat the profession for lack of discipline and art form. This is simply the characteristic of the film that recoils malevolence from sheer insistence on cinematic rasping. These boys would rather join an impromptu Vogueing contest themselves than berate “drag queens and all their draggy ways.” There is no judgment to come between as everyone dances to their own spots on stage.

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IT’S NO MISOGYNISTIC AT ALL

It’s very much on the contrary. You need not be sophisticated to figure out the difference. It’s feminist all around in the sort of empowering women to express their desires without fear and hesitation, “all we got to do is ask them what they want, and when they tell you, it’s a beautiful thing.”

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IT’S A SEQUEL. BUT A DIFFERENT RIDE.

Veering away from the mentor-mentee dynamics of the first Magic Mike, XXL definitively reinstalls the characters into their small but exciting world of entertainment. Entertaining does not only happen on stage, it can also emerge over a night of wine by focusing the spotlight to truthful contemplation. Allowing a woman to redeem herself, and reaching out to her with understanding and moral support – entertainment exalts itself from mere spectatorship.  Their sense of obligation to entertain is not frivolous; in fact, it is not just an act of giving what people want but rather suggest locating the power they may have long possessed within.

XXL is a thinly veiled road movie that capitalizes more on the spiritual effects rather than the physical exploits. The overall result satisfies the experience and motivation that each character, Andie McDowell and Amber Heard included, validly yearns for. The thoughtfulness of XXL reflects its gallant motivation to remain on top of its game. In Magic Mike’s world, you take a woman with the saddest backstory or the girl with a feeble drive – the best way to treat a lady is not to shift and dissolve her woes, insecurities, and flaws, but rather as effortlessly putting a smile on her face while challenging her to look at life where each opportunity for change is a celebration.

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MAGIC MIKE XXL

In theaters worldwide starting July 1

Directed by Gregory Jacobs

Written by Reid Carolin

Produced by Reid Carolin, Gregory Jacobs, Elaine Mongeon, Steven Soderbergh, Channing Tatum, and Nick Wechsler

Cinematography by  Steven Soderbergh  (as Peter Andrews)

Film Editing by  Steven Soderbergh (as Mary Ann Bernard)

Casting By Carmen Cuba

Production Design by Howard Cummings

Art Direction by Eric R. Johnson

Set Decoration by Barbara Munch

Costume Design by Christopher Peterson

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