Monday, July 2, 2012

Magic Mike review

From the first time I heard that the movie was being made, Magic Mike was intriguing to me. Steven Soderbergh directing a male stripper movie with Channing Tatum and, most importantly, Matthew McConaughey just sounds interesting to me. McConaughey has been picking very interesting projects lately, Tatum has been working hard to prove he's a serious actor, and Soderbergh is one of the most important directors to have come out in the last 25 years. Does that mean everything he makes is gold? No, in fact, his filmography is pretty spotty overall, but he always seems to be capable of making a movie that's interesting. Some of them are great and some of them are failures, but they're always interesting.

Another intriguing aspect of the film was the fact that it was drawing from Channing Tatum's past when he worked as a male stripper. That gave the film a necessary addition of authenticity. This wasn't just going to be a film where hunky beefcakes strut their stuff (and there's plenty of that), but we're going to be introduced to a world that we otherwise would never know about unless we were in the business. Like "The Wrestler," Magic Mike is about a profession that's so cut off from other professions that its workers basically live in their own little world. Magic Mike's world is more fun than The Wrestler's, but it's also a profession that I'd imagine would be tough to exit from. If you're in the prime of your life physically and you have nothing else going for you in your professional life, why wouldn't you want to dance your ass off every night, dry humping horny ladies for cash?

That's one of the questions Magic Mike asks and the movie is at its best when it portrays this secluded world because, thanks to Soderbergh's direction, it's all treated in a very matter-of-fact way. The movie goes through a very familiar rise-and-fall storyline where the veteran takes "the kid" in and shows him the ropes. The veteran being Mr. Magic Mike himself (Tatum) and the kid is Adam (Alex Pettyfer). Basically the kid is someone who has nothing else going for him as far as being able to earn a living for himself so naturally he winds up under Mike's wing to become the new star at Xquisite which is managed by the very charismatic and up-to-no-good Dallas (Matthew McConaughey).

Never mind all the dancing montages and the film's subject matter, regardless of how you feel about all of that, you cannot help but admire Matthew McConaughey's spirited performance here. The guy goes all out and showcases the best of what he can offer as an actor. There's no wonder why the ladies go crazy over him. His relaxed, charismatic Southern drawl pulls them in and he shows absolutely no fear in his performance. He's only bested by Channing Tatum who has the advantage of previously being a male stripper. Still, Tatum shows that if he wanted to, he could go right back to that profession.

But that's why the film is mostly successful. All the actors show no fear in going out to the platform and dancing their asses off including former WWF wrestler Kevin Nash. It's when the film strays from the nightclub where it starts to falter. Magic Mike's relationships with women (portrayed by Olivia Munn and Cody Horn) aren't handled as confidently. Cody Horn plays Adam's sister who tries her best to protect her brother but can't help but be won over by Mike's charm. The scenes between the two, however, just feel weak and the stakes never really go as high as they should. This is also true when Adam falls into the trap of drugs and crazy druggy women; aside from a scene depicting him overdosing, the film never really goes far enough and only hints at Adam's possible downfall instead of explicitly showing us.

I also felt that the film kinda copped out at the end. While I don't feel it all needed to wrapped up at the end in a perfect bow, I still feel like it ended at the most interesting part. Is Mike really going to quit? Is Adam going too far? Is Dallas moving the nightclub to Miami going to payoff? I guess we'll never know. Steven Soderbergh has said in the past that he has no interest in making serious films anymore and that he's bored with the craft of filmmaking. In some ways, you can tell. He's definitely still a great craftsman but he shows no interest in pushing the envelope any further than he has to. This makes Magic Mike merely decent entertainment instead of what could've been a really interesting expose of the world of male stripping. I like movies that show me worlds I would otherwise never know about and Steven Soderbergh is still a good enough director that he can keep Magic Mike from entering "Step Up" territory. I just wish that fire and passion he has for film was still there because I think this could've really been a great movie instead of just a pretty good one.

Grade: B-


Dan O. said...

Good review Ken. I had a great time with this flick because I loved the style that Soderbergh gave off, the energy that he had with the stripping scenes, and the story that actually took me. Also, the performances weren't too shabby, either.

Ken said...

Thanks for the comment!