Entries Comments

Magic Mike Has Very Little Substance, But Lucky It Has Soderbergh

Magic Mike
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Reid Carolin
Warner Bros., 2012

The last time we had male stripping as a focus in a big movie, it was 1997’s The Full Monty.  The damn thing was nominated for Best Picture, lost in the shuffle with the behemoth Titanic and critical favorites Good Will Hunting and L.A. Confidential (As Good As It Gets rounded it out).  That movie was a good old fashioned British comedy, with characters who had to do it because they recently became unemployed.  They weren’t true man-meat, either, which lent itself to the comedy.

We always hear about how movies are heavily weighted towards heterosexual men when it comes to nudity in film.  And I think a lot of us hetero dudes are probably thankful for that, but we easily recognize the disparity.  It’s nearly impossible for a movie to show something on a man that is worthwhile and not get a NC-17 rating out of it.  And for you ladies out there who want to see Magic Mike for full-on Channing Tatum action, you’ll get to see a butt or two, but the disparity is still there.  Hell, we even see Olivia Munn naked in this film: a huge coup for trying to get men to watch this.  But this movie pulls punches, mainly because it’s trying to wallow in the mainstream, and it can’t do anything crazy or else the movie becomes “that Channing Tatum flick I ran across on Netflix that one time” and not a major release.

Magic Mike is getting great reviews, to the tune of 80% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is insanely high.  It’s way too high, actually.  I’m not saying that as a matter of opinion, I’m saying that movies like this don’t tend to score this well critically.  It’s a very familiar tale, with very little substance, and not much in the way of “balls,” and it’s saved from awfulness by Steven Soderbergh.

Mike (Tatum) is a wannabe entrepreneur who strips for cash by night.  Early on, he recruits 19-year-old Adam (Alex Pettyfer) to come out to the venue.  He’s just looking for a small job, but of course ends up being one of them.  The ringleader of this man-flesh is Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), who wants to move this outfit from Tampa to Miami for more bucks.  Adam’s new job is greeted with obvious scorn by his sister Brooke (fresh-faced Cody Horn).  Mike promises to protect Adam from all the craziness that being a male stripper entails, but there are temptations of drugs, money, and sex everywhere, and what is a 19-year-old to do with all that?

Mike has a casual relationship with Joanna (Munn) but is looking for something more with Brooke, but this movie does not go in the direction of every romantic drama you’ve ever seen, Brooke being the reluctant lover only to be let down at a key part of the second act.  The movie really doesn’t have much on its mind.  Some women will love all the stripper scenes, as they are done with all the pageantry you would expect, and there’s plenty of 300-style muscles to go around, along with some concealed packages.  Some people have compared this movie to Boogie Nights, but it’s nearly as thoughtful as that movie.  I think more along the lines of The Wrestler, but that movie has a lot more substance, too.

This is a rather disconnected “story,” nothing seems to hang in the balance really.  Mike has to decide whether he wants to keep doing this into his thirties or not, but whether he does or doesn’t is really of no matter.  Soderbergh guides this pretty well, and I think most people who want to see this will leave the theatre happy.  Women wanting to see a male stripper movie with a dash of romance will probably leave satisfied.  Men…there’s the Olivia Munn scene.  And the performances are pretty good.  Alex Pettyfer turns in the performance that made him a sort of “it” guy in the last couple of years after the duds I Am Number Four and Beastly and the stories on the sets of those movies gave his name a tarnish.  I’m still not sold on Tatum.  He might be like a Keanu Reeves or Paul Walker, who is best in certain roles, but Lord don’t make him recite Shakespeare.  I look forward to seeing more Cody Horn in the future.

Certainly not a great movie but definitely better than expected.

Write a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.