Monday, December 3, 2012

Magic Mike

Directed by Steven Soderbergh.
2012. Rated R, 110 minutes.
Alex Pettyfer
Cody Horn
Olivia Munn
Matt Bomer
Joe Manganiello
Adam Rodriguez
Kevin Nash
Gabriel Iglesias

Meet Magic Mike (Tatum). He’s a different kind of magician. He makes most of his clothing disappear. That’s just my convoluted way of saying Mike is a male stripper. Let’s get the most important piece of information out of the way first for any curious ladies, or guys, out there: we do not get to see Magic Mike’s magic mike. Sorry. Or, thank goodness, depending on your particular point of view. Someone else’s is momentarily on display, but presented in a decidedly non-erotic manner. As a consolation for any misguided hopes, or confirmation of any suspicions, there are plenty of beefy, oily, hairless guys in thongs. Yay for you. Well, a little more than half of you.

Even though flesh is the main selling point, it’s only a part of what Magic Mike has to offer. It’s not a sprawling sexually charged epic like Boogie Nights. However, like that movie, MM realizes that while people come for the carnal pleasures, pun not intended, they stay for the stories built around the decadence.

The story here starts with Mike. He’s not only a stripper, he’s an entrepreneur as he’s quick to tell people. He also dabbles in roofing and auto-detailing. What he really wants to do is get his hand-crafted, custom design furniture business off the ground. After a couple chance meetings with directionless 19 year old Adam (Pettyfer), Mike finds himself with a protégé. Of course, boys will be boys. This gives us most of our theatrics and dramatics. Adam lives with his ever-so-slightly older sister Brooke (Horn). Pretty much from the moment they meet, she and Mike have this opposites attract thing going on, providing the romance for our tale.

Supplying our comic relief, of both the homoerotic and hetero-sleazy persuasions, is strip club owner Dallas, played by a magnetic Matthew McConaughey. He dominates every scene in which he appears with a deliciously over the top performance. Since MM is a popcorn flick about strippers that was released during the summer, he probably won’t get the kudos he deserves for giving one of 2012’s most enjoyable performances. True, it has none of the subtle nuances we movie buff types batter our keyboards to produce loving prose for. He reveals almost nothing of the inner-workings of the man he’s playing. On the other hand, his bombastic façade overwhelms us. We simply cannot take our eyes off him whether we’re attracted to or repulsed by his greasy pecs.

The rest of the cast is solid, for the most part. Tatum is in his element as a street savvy, urban/suburban white guy who can really, really dance. In fact, the movie is inspired by his real life experience as a young stripper. Olivia Munn is surprisingly good as the party girl who answers his booty calls. Pettyfer is okay as what amounts to an overgrown, ungrateful child. Horn is not so good as the over-protective big sis. Her chemistry with Tatum feels awkward and forced. The same goes for many of her line deliveries. We can tell she’s acting. That’s never a good thing. She’s not helped by the way the relationship between her character and Tatum’s is written. It never truly feels like a budding love affair. Instead, it’s like we’re watching two people whom we know, through our experiences with other movies, will inevitably wind up together because the script requires them to. It is so obvious I do not feel the need to say “Spoiler Alert.”

Fortunately, the lackluster love story is saved by the rest of the movie. The dynamics between the three male leads is lively and, eventually, contentious. MM has a nice flow to it when they are interacting with each other and the other strippers. The locker room talk snaps and the man-child antics mix with their stage routines to create hyperkinetic energy. Admittedly, these routines are a challenge to those of us who wouldn’t be caught dead in a club like the one these guys work in, but they’re still fun within the context of the movie. It’s too bad all that energy dissipates whenever we slog through the perfunctory romance. It also fizzles out a bit when it can’t decide if it wants to be a cautionary tale or not. I won’t spoil that part. Otherwise, it’s an entertaining flick that a lot of guys will refuse to watch.

MY SCORE: 7/10

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