Thursday, July 5, 2012

Magic Mike

MAGIC MIKE                 C+                         
USA  (110 mi)  2012  ‘Scope  d:  Steven Soderbergh

While this film was shot in Tampa, it’s not likely to please the local Chamber of Commerce, as the town is perceived as a backwater Miami, the equivalent perhaps of the seedy side of Los Angeles.  The waterfront scenes, however, are exquisite, a contrast to the overall tone of broken dreams.  There’s not much of a story here, loosely based on actor Channing Tatum’s real life experiences of working as a male stripper, where here he’s Magic Mike, the lead act of a male strip joint called Xquisite owned by none other than Matthew McConaughey, who is pretty much shirtless throughout the entire film.  For many in the audience, from drooling teenage girls to men in trench coats, that pretty much sums up the film, as everything in between the nearly naked stage shows is all filler material waiting for the next stage show.  For others, however, that behind-the-scenes filler material *is* the movie, for better or for worse.  In many ways, what this resembles, style-wise, is Darren Aronofsky’s THE WRESTLER (2008), but Tatum’s performance, while charming, perhaps as good as anything he’s done since A GUIDE TO RECOGNIZING YOUR SAINTS (2006), is simply no match for Mickey Rourke’s world weary and battle scarred performance both in and out of the wrestling ring.  Similarly Marisa Tomei’s performance alone has more depth than anything seen in this movie, which is largely a showcase for the strip review acts themselves, a somewhat unglamorized look at well chiseled men bumping and grinding onstage to wall-to-wall sounds of techno beats or popular songs, before jumping into the audience and grabbing women for a close up version of more of the same.  Tatum is a hunk, as are all the others, including McConaughey, whose oversaturated, tabloid sex appeal is notorious, by now playing almost a caricature version of himself, as we’ve seen it so often, which may actually be how he sees himself, who knows, though he always comes off as something of a pretentious, self-centered clown, whose only job in every film is to be smug and make himself physically look…um, appetizing.  You want dialog?  How many times in the film do we hear him say, “Alright, alright, alriiiiiight."

As for the acts themselves, they’re fun and lively, not exactly daring or sophisticated, not nearly in the same league as the Crazy Horse Saloon in Paris, Crazy Horse (2011), where it’s hard not to laugh just a little (or a lot!!), as it’s all so ridiculous, not the idea of male strippers so much as the way they play it, exaggerating every sexual gesture, like dogs humping every object they come in contact with, making it clear they wanted these shows to define male strip club acts, but they’re instead fairly standard depictions, spies in trench coats carrying umbrellas in the rain to the music of “It’s Raining Men,” Magic Mike - Extra Clip "It's Raining Men" ft. Channing Tatum ... YouTube (1:34), construction workers with sledgehammers between their legs, a Tarzan act with a ginormous you know what, soldiers in uniform led by McConaughey as Uncle Sam stripping before an unfolding American flag, all set to follow the John Waters HAIRSPRAY (1988) film to theater template where Magic Mike the Musical is expected to open on Broadway by the summer of 2013, where it’s sure to be hyped as dumb fun at its finest.  Tatum plays Mike, a thirty-something guy who juggles a variety of businesses, calling himself a self-styled entrepreneur, including a construction roofing business along with a piece of the strip club owned by Dallas (McConaughey), perhaps auto detailing on the side, while his real dream is running his own custom furniture business.  But he has notorious credit problems, always paid in cash, so he never qualifies for a bank loan.  Mike picks up a 19-year old on the construction site named Adam (Alex Pettyfer) that he calls “The Kid,” a name that sticks when he’s introduced into the stripping business, to Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.”  While the Kid is awful at first, he eventually develops a taste not only for the front row ladies, but also the ready availability of sex and drugs, becoming immersed in the party scene, where we see the guys bring home a couple of girls afterwards, where they also dance and drink beer on the beach, turning much of this into a Corona beer commercial. 

The attempt at a story comes when Mike meets the Kid’s sister, Cody Corn as Brooke, a smart, fairly reserved, more straight-laced woman who’s not enamored by the whole mannish strip angle, but thinks it’s OK for Mike, who deserves the applause and adulation he earns, as the energy he generates onstage is a legitimate electrifying high, seen here doing a little of his own break dancing, Magic Mike Movie CLIP #1 (2012) Channing Tatum Stripper Mo YouTube (1:02), but it’s not so good for her brother, as he’s not headliner, star material and tends to get easily confused.  Mike promises to look out for him, but the kid turns out to be more than he can handle, as despite their friendship, he’s continually making terrible decisions on the side where Mike has to bail him out, which only gets more complicated over time, as the Kid continually takes greater risks.  There’s a single scene in the film where Alex Pettyfer, despite the presence of available naked women, expresses an interest in fellow stripper Matt Bomer, but this male on male scene goes nowhere, though it was obviously originally intended to be something likely censorable.  Soderbergh’s decision to play it safe takes any hope of ideas or experimentation out of the picture, becoming a conventionally mainstream romance movie, where Mike and Brooke have an attraction, developing an on-again, off-again relationship, but that also goes nowhere, leading to a deep hole where the movie is desperate to generate some spark of interest.  There’s a bit of a tiff between Mike and Dallas, who cuts a deal for a new and larger club in Miami, more promised dreams, but Mike gets less than what he was expecting, creating a falling out, perhaps a touch of jealousy, but clearly Mike, in something of a midlife crisis, wants to be more than what he is.  The film is continually energized by the musical numbers, but there’s little camaraderie developed between the guys, little character development, a barebones and often trite story, where Soderbergh always does a terrific job giving the film a distinct look, making something happen from the emptiness of darkened rooms, where one learns not to trust the happiness that develops in the sunshine, as it will only be eclipsed by the ensuing trouble that takes place every night—a bit corny, but pleasantly entertaining, sure to bring out the teens looking for a little titillation in their summer fun.   

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