Steven Soderbergh's "Magic Mike" offered a unique glimpse into the world of male entertainment, with a stacked cast to back it up. Channing Tatum has proven to be a versatile actor, but the moves he's able to perform on the dance floor are unbelievable. The film is loosely based on Tatum's actual experiences as a young male entertainer when he was performing in Tampa, Florida. Although Soderbergh sat out for "Magic Mike XXL," the highly acclaimed filmmaker is returning for the latest installment "Magic Mike's Last Dance." But as excited as I am for that, we need to take a breath, embrace the sweat, and talk about the series' sophomore sequel for a moment.
Tatum is undoubtedly the lead in "Magic Mike XXL," but its greatest secret weapon is its ensemble, which includes Matt Bomer, Kevin Nash, Adam Rodriguez, Gabriel Iglesias, Jada Pinkett Smith, Elizabeth Banks, and Donald Glover. Together, these folks work their magic on a fun-as-hell road trip adventure that presents these glistening masculine figures in a healthy light. They know that all eyes are on them when they step on that stage. However, rather than stroking their egos, the dancers largely focus on wanting to provide a pleasurable experience, especially for close encounters.
If it feels like I've left off a very important name, that's because I have, and I don't think I should keep him waiting out back any longer. Let us not forget Mr. Joe Manganiello, playing the fittingly-named Big Dick Richie who not only goes through a spectacular transformation, but steals the movie away from everyone else with just one scene. You know the one I'm talking about.
Challenge For The Firefighter
While "Magic Mike" was about the emotional pressure of being this golden figure every night, "Magic Mike XXL" allows its dancers to open up about the kinds of performances they actually want to do. In Big Dick Richie's case, he's been stuck in the same routine for years now. God knows how many times he's moved his muscular abdomen to "Hotter Than Hell" on account of his former boss Dallas (Matthew McConaughey). Mike wants to switch things up before they pack it up, but given that the big convention in Myrtle Beach is their "final ride," the group would rather stick to what they did before.
One group session with the dudes later, Richie realizes that he's still trapped under the weight of his firefighter stage persona. It turns out he's a romantic at heart and wants to try something completely different. But with that kind of leap comes these nerves that most of us feel when we want to go after something, but don't possess the courage to do so. We have a male entertainer in crisis and, thankfully, Mike presents his bud with a challenge to break him out of his shell.
Inside a mini-mart gas station is a frowny-faced employee (Lindsey Moser) deep in her phone. As difficult as it may seem, Mike issues a challenge to go in there and make her smile. When you've got the kind of road trip besties like these cheering you on, how could you not feel on top of the world? After some reluctance, Richie waltzes into the mini-mart ready to put on a show. Folks like to talk about the scenes that hold a special place in film history. This is undoubtedly one of them.
Big Dick Richie Goes The Distance
In a moment of almost divine intervention, "I Want It That Way" from the Backstreet Boys comes on over the store radio, which gives Richie the signal he needed to turn up the heat. Casually ripping open the bag of Cheetos is a good starter to get her attention, but let me tell you. The screams that emanated from my theater when Manganiello gave the audience an Aquafina facial from across the store were deafening. The clerk still isn't smiling, but she's interested in what's happening right before her eyes. "How much for the Cheetos and water," says the glistening, shirtless Richie. The clerk triumphantly becomes a ray of sunshine, unleashing the kind of pure smile that could light a thousand homes, all while the boys celebrate outside.
I can't tell you how much this sequence places a huge stupid grin on my face every time I get to this point in the film. Unlike the dance scenes later on, this one feels so much looser and free. It's all due to how Manganiello plays it. He's able to play up the physical comedy of having a mini-mart at his disposal, rather than a traditional stage. But at the same time, it proves that Richie has always had "it." It's the kind of fantasy scenario you could only dream of, and he's provided the clerk with an experience she will likely never forget. The dance manages to be sexy without pushing boundaries.
We don't see the aftermath, but I like to think that Richie went back to clean up his mess because he's a gentleman like that. Aside from a great one-off scene, it also gets Richie to where he needs to be by the time the finale rolls around.
A Leap Of Faith Brought Richie To Where He Needed To Be
Richie received the validation that he's still got the moves, and all it took was pushing a little bit outside his comfort zone. It presents him with the confidence he needs to take a leap and do something he's always wanted to do. By the time the group lands in Myrtle Beach, it's time to shine. Right before the mini-mart pit stop, he's overwhelmed with a wave of passion for a new idea involving a wedding-themed routine. Cloaked in a dashing suit, Richie extends a silent proposal, before "marrying" her in front of the roaring crowd with a comically large diamond.
But it's after this that Big Dick Richie comes out to play, as he gently secures his faux bride to a large sex swing, and proceeds to show her the time of her life. The mini-mart scene would have worked well enough as a cute one-off, but "Magic Mike XXL" shows how it works in the bigger picture, and all of the dancers have unique experiences along this trip that they end up bringing to the stage. The rejuvenation in their line of work presents them with an opportunity to share it with the folks that come out to see them. Who would have thought that Cheetos, water, and a shirt toss would result in a healthy and sexy masculine presence who thrives on the intimacy of women's desires?
"Magic Mike XXL" never fails to bring me to my happy place. Big Dick Richie wouldn't have it any other way, I'm sure.
"Magic Mike XXL" is currently streaming on HBO Max.
Read this next: The 30 Most Anticipated Movies Of 2023
The post An Ode To Joe Manganiello's Gas Station Challenge In Magic Mike XXL appeared first on /Film.