Channing Tatum, merman.
Magic Mike XXL is a feelgood masterpiece. From the second or so scene, when Channing Tatum ditches his welding mask to casually grind against a timber 2x4 in his carpentry hut to the familiar strains of that pole club symphony Ginuwine's 'Pony' - with power drill positioned like an electric penis - you probably won't stop smiling.
The hundreds of girls squealing and yelling things like "JUST TAKE IT OFF CHANNING I'LL MARRY YOU" at the film's Sydney premiere the other night might've added to the feelings, but I haven't enjoyed a movie so much since Vin Diesel flew off a broken bridge in Fast & Furious 6 and even the old people in the cinema burst into applause and made out with each other.
But it's not just the dancing or sex stuff. What's most appealing – and perhaps surprising – about the sequel to the 2012 hit is the overriding sense of inclusiveness and acceptance. The film's already been called 'body positive' and 'sex positive', praised for its focus on diversity and female desire. For what's essentially a buddy road film centred on a bunch of dudes - what Quentin Tarantino might call "a hangout movie" - it still manages to be a film for those Hollywood generally tends to ignore, especially women.
Mike (Channing Tatum), Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello) and their gang of unlikely stripper heroes hit the highways on the way to a stripper convention, meeting old and new acquaintances on the way. Who cares, the best stuff's in the details.
I don't know, but any other Hollywood movie featuring a scene where six or so dudes walk into a drag bar wouldn't resist some homophobic slight "for laughs" (even Amy Schumer's upcoming Trainwreck has its share of unnecessary PC-baiting gags). But in XXL, the guys just respectfully cheer, before getting enthusiastically involved in a vogue dance battle.
In other scenes, there's a club that caters specifically to women of colour (where Jada Pinkett-Smith, Donald Glover, and THE GREATEST DANCER OF YOUR LIFETIME F--KING TWITCH steal the show to magnificent Jodeci jamz); there's Andie MacDowell and other older women getting unapologetically tipsy and freaky; there's women of all sizes being gyrated upon by ripped dudes - and none of the scenes are played for cheap laughs, as we've often come to expect.
Oh yeah, we caught up with stars Channing Tatum and Joe Manganiello in Sydney yesterday to discuss the whole amazing thing. We asked Channing if he understands how much Roxane Gay loves him. I think she might have a new gig soon.
Daily Life: I read that in the US, something like 96% of the opening weekend audience for Magic Mike XXL were women.
Channing Tatum: That was probably the intention, yeah.
Right, was that your idea going into it - "We're going to make a 'women's film'"?
Well, no. I'm not exactly sure if you can tell a story or make a movie with that sort of simple intention. You try to figure out what the story is. We weren't trying to make The Godfather here; we were trying to make a really fun thing.
How much input did you get from the women in your lives - like your wife, partner, mums?
A lot. Jenna (Dewan, Tatum's wife) was there the whole time. I had like a built-in focus group in my house. You end up having to talk to her all the time. She was down while we were rehearsing some of the dance stuff, and she looks out for you. She's like "Hmm, don't do that stuff, I'm not sure about that." It was interesting to have that perspective. She's a dancer; she's danced on some of the biggest stages in the world, so she gets it.
Have you heard of Roxane Gay?
Roxane Gay. She's this feminist writer. She's a big fan.
Oh! Is she? I was just like, "Oh God, what's about to happen..."
No, she loves the film. Check her Twitter, everything's about Magic Mike.
Oh man, that's cool.
Here is my Christmas list: 1. Magic Mike XXL on Blu Ray. 2. See Item 1— roxane gay (@rgay) July 1, 2015
It is okay if you are feeling "sick" and need to leave work early to go see Magic Mike. I will write you a doctor's note.— roxane gay (@rgay) July 1, 2015
Listening to Feel It from Magic Mike XXL to get over that movie. On repeat.— roxane gay (@rgay) July 7, 2015
We contacted her. We were like "Do you have any questions for Channing Tatum?"
She had one - "Hmmm. Does he cook?"
Yeah, I cook. I'm actually - and Jenna would say this - I'm a better cook than Jenna. I just cook the standards. I'm not like a chef. But I cook a mean breakfast, I'm nasty on the grill, and I mainly just like the healthy foods. I can't cook what my wife loves though, 'cause I don't really do a lot of vegetables and my wife's a vegetarian. So that's one where I'm like, "If I don't know how to do it, you're gonna have to do this one on your own."
@AmyMcNeilage hmmm. Does he cook?— roxane gay (@rgay) July 6, 2015
What about you, man - do you cook? (note: sorry, I didn't mean to ice out Manganiello for this long.)
Joe Manganiello: Well, you know, growing up in Pittsburgh, that's like grill culture, so my grill game is pretty mean.
Cool. I'm pretty sure she'll like those answers.
Tatum: I wonder if she cooks? I wanna talk to her. We're gonna do a Magic Mike Vegas show, and it's... (sighs). 'Feminist' is like a hard word for me to throw around. I would love to say I'm a feminist but I don't study feminism, so I can't just go, like, "Yes, I'm a feminist!". But I'm very pro-feminism. I wanna talk to her about the Magic Mike show.
Manganiello: I'm glad she digs it! Because, you know, I can see how it is pro-feminist. But it's also a movie where the men retain their masculinity, which I think is, you know, a balancing act. I'm glad that she enjoys it. We're still guys.
Tatum: Yeah, it's exactly that. Let's put each other on an equal playing field, and have a conversation.
Magic Mike XXL opens in cinemas this Thursday.