Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Run Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes (Rated R)
Starring: Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, Alex Pettyfer, Cody Horn, Joe Manganiello, Olivia Munn, Kevin Nash
Directed by Steven Soderbergh (Haywire, Contagion, Ocean’s Eleven, Traffic, Erin Brockovich)
Opens locally Friday, June 29th, 2012
From the opening scene of Magic Mike – when a naked and chiseled Channing Tatum stumbles out of bed and over two women, his bare ass in plain sight – there is no mistaking the target audience of director Steven Soderbergh. This is a film about masculine men intended to motivate flocks of women to fill up their local theaters in an excited frenzy. I guess there are much more harmful ways to spend a girls’ night out.
The film is about a male stripper nick-named “Magic Mike” (Channing Tatum) who recruits a newbie known as “The Kid” (Alex Pettyfer) into his glamorous world. The club he works for is owned by Dallas (Matthew McConaughey, no stranger to being shirtless on screen), a veteran dancer who knows nothing else. Cody Horn plays The Kid’s hot sister Brooke, who of course finds her brother’s new line of work disgusting.
Mike introduces The Kid to the business, and we get an inside look at the business of male dancing. Surprisingly, what we see through Soderbergh’s lens is quite fascinating. The strip club segments of the film – with muscular men dancing around dressed in an array of female fantasy roles from firefighters to police officers - had women in the theater I was in hooting and hollering throughout. More than a few nervous giggles were heard blending in with the on-screen female crowds acting only slightly less proper. Being that there is little to no gratuitous nudity in the film and especially in comparison to female night clubs (ahem, so I’m told…) I found the on-stage performances in Magic Mike teetering from tame to lame.
Interesting then, that the behind-the-scenes look at the night club actually offers the most meaty (pun intended) portions of the film in terms of compelling content. If only the film lingered a bit longer in the realm of the male night club underworld and less outside of the club, it may have been on to something.
Part of what works is Matthew McConaughey’s performance. He gets beat up pretty frequently as not being a great actor, but he is a prime example of how effective an actor can be when delivered with the right role. His club-owner Dallas is so sleazy he’s charming, and his character is far more interesting than the others that we are forced to follow in this tale.
The character of Magic Mike is the biggest problem with Magic Mike. The film follows every convention that we expect it to. Mike isn’t happy as a stripper, and he is saving up to open his own business. An infinite amount of women and partying doesn’t satiate his need to be loved. I'm sorry, but it's hard to gain sympathy from an audience when the first half of the film shows that you can pretty much have anything in life that you want.
Magic Mike has been called “Showgirls for women” and the comparison isn’t very accurate. Showgirls was tacky and foundationless, not to mention chock full of horrible acting. Everybody is trying in Magic Mike and there are some things to like, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that the plot is built on the flimsy “stripper with a heart of gold” premise.
Even still, Magic Mike should be a hit with its target audience, although no woman would ever admit to it. Much like going to an actual strip club, women will do so in the name of harmless fun, never admitting to the dirty idea that the experience may have fulfilled a fantasy or two. In one of the loudest, most reactive screenings I’ve seen in quite a while, many women were still overheard saying how disappointing Magic Mike was on the way out.
If there is one thing women have proven they’re great at over the years, it’s faking it.
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