Thursday, July 12, 2012

Magic Mike - Theatrical Review


Release Date: June 29, 2012

Magic Mike is going to anger some people I'm guessing and by some people I mean women. What starts out as a feel good flick with plenty of uncovered male body parts jiggling around quickly becomes an exercise in tedium and ends ultimately in disappointment.

Review Vital Stats:
Theater: Harkins Theatres Chino Hills
Time: 8:40 pm June 30, 2012
Projector Type: Digital 2D
Film Rating: R
Film Runtime: 1 hr 55 min
Studio: Warner Bros.

Loves: The dancing (Yes, I am secure enough in my sexuality to say that)
Likes: Channing Tatum (what?), Steven Soderbergh
Neutral: My masculinity after watching this
Hates: The groan worthy storyline
Fact: This film is loosely based off the events of Channing Tatum's real life stripper career

I was sort of looking forward to Magic Mike. No, really, I was. I know it is very difficult for most immature adult males to say they are interested in seeing a film filled to the brim with male...stuff, but I have no problem stating that after learning it was directed by Steven Soderbergh (a man who is getting by on good will alone anymore) and that it had some weight behind it with the fact it was loosely based off star Channing Tatum's real life exploits as a male stripper, I was genuinely intrigued. The one thing that was being used to sell the movie though was not its story or history, but a copious amount of naked man-ass being paraded and shook all over that stage. That is where Magic Mike fails, not in the concept or even the casting, but in how it doesn't deliver what I am suspecting most are expecting from it, a good time.

Michael Lane (Channing Tatum) is a man of many trades including hand made furniture maker, roof tiler, but his main job is getting up on that stage every night down at the Xquisite male stripper club where he transforms into Magic Mike and will rock your world. During one of his side jobs, Mike befriends this down on his luck kid Adam (Alex Pettyfer) and decides to help him out by introducing him to the lucrative world of male stripping. While Adam is loving every minute of it, his over protective sister Brooke (Cody Horn) isn't happy about it all, but with Mike putting a little magic out there, he soon convinces her to let him find his own way while the two of them try to find their way, together.

Mike is looking to expand his horizons.

This isn't the movie I think all those women running into those theaters, dollars in hand, are expecting.
Yes, it does feature a large number of dance sequences where finely tuned and well chiseled examples of the male anatomy get up on stage and shake their booty for hundreds of women who just go weak in the knees for this motley crew of professional male strippers. Yes, you do get to see Channing Tatum's ass (in the first few minutes none the less). Yes, you get to see Matthew McConaughey dressed up in a waist high yellow see-through tank top while wearing a bandanna and the tightest, highest pair of 7th grade P.E. shorts you have ever seen in your life. Yes, everything you saw in those trailers or were expecting from a movie about male strippers is here, but the problem is that it just isn't as fun as it feels it should have been.

I feel as though I am secure enough in my sexuality to say that when I sat down in that theater surrounded by the opposite sex that I too wanted to see some impressive dance numbers and I too was excited about all the bizarre possibilities to come. Then perhaps follow that up and see these guys go live it up during the off hours and show all of us overweight and out of shape poor examples of men how to party. Now, perhaps I am once again guilty of expecting one thing when it was never meant to be, but as the film slowly (and I do mean slowly) progressed it also started to shift from this party atmosphere to this very dark and grim tale about someone who gets in over their head and must find a way out before they are hurt or worse. I mean, who came out to see Magic Mike expecting to see a movie about a slacker dead beat who gets in all kinds of trouble and never learns from his mistakes? Then by the time the drug running came into the picture it had lost me, but lost me in the sense where I just didn't care what was happening to these people anymore.

It's magic time when Mike hits the stage.

In all honesty I don't think Steven Soderbergh was the right person to make this movie. It makes sense on the surface, he knows how to handle drama and can get great acting out of not-so-great actors, but he has never been good with spectacle, which I understand, its not his thing. But Magic Mike is just begging for spectacle everywhere you look. You look at his Ocean's movies and you see immediately how he takes what would normally be a fun loving romp and turns it into this sort of anti-genre film by sucking all the life out it by removing all colors and replacing them with a monotone look and framing all his shots as though he was just barely able to squeeze the camera in there. He sucks the life out of his films but keeps the focus on the characters, which works for the most part. The Ocean's series is remembered for the dynamics between the actors and there interplay with each other, not the robberies. The same can be said for his anti-spy movie from earlier this year, Haywire, where he sucked out all the bells (car chases) and whistles (gun fights) out of an action/spy movie and provided this cold and calculated film about a woman scorned who is looking for some payback. It still had action but it was all strangely diluted, which is how Magic Mike feels most of the time. Watching Magic Mike was like being at a party in that gray area just between a nice buzz and falling flat on your face, it looks as though it should feel good but it just isn't very satisfying.

That style doesn't work for everything though. Last years virus centric flick Contagion was a film with a lot of smart ideas, great actors and some alarming insights, but Soderbergh's cold touch just sucked the life out of the production which made it near impossible to feel anything for any of the characters. It was a technically proficient film, but a lifeless one. Magic Mike on the other hand is a film that on its surface seems to be about partying and living the good life. It looked to be one of those films you would just want to have a good time watching, it looked electric and alive, but ultimately it is none of that. Steven Soderbergh has taken what should have been a slam dunk for female audiences everywhere who are just looking for some naked man ass and a good time and instead delivered a film about shattered dreams, broken lives, drugs, lies and a whole lot of melancholy which is just sad and unfortunate.

Mike is looking for more than just a one night stand anymore.

I suppose you could always look at this in a completely different light if you wanted to. If you have always wanted a film that looked at the profession of male strippers in a very grounded, realistic and sobering way then this could be the holy grail of male stripper movies. It does its best to paint the profession with this very grimy brush and make it feel as though these aren't necessarily careers for these guys, but more like the end of the road for them. There is an argument there if one cared so much to make one (there must have been a good reason for Tatum to leave the gig right?), but I am not that person. I will fully admit to this film not working for me simply because it was not fun to watch and maybe it was never meant to be fun to watch, but that is what those trailers and ads sold me on and that was what I wanted. I didn't want to see people get drugged up, party too hard and wake up in a pool of vomit just barely hanging on to their lives just before the drug cartel comes and destroys their home looking for their drugs. Even if that was something I would have been open to, Soderbergh fills the film with so many tired cliches about attaining dreams and hard decision making that it still would have bored me to tears.

The other part of the film and possibly the more annoying one is the love story. First of all, this movie did not need a love story. Second of all, the woman that Mike falls for is not a very likeable person. She berates his lifestyle constantly, second guesses everything he says, condemns his dreams and practically forces him to give up on them and then has very little sympathy for the guy after he hands over his fortune to save her brother. Not only is the character Brooke unappealing in just about every way, but the actress herself is also very unappealing in how she plays her. I actually found the relationship between Mike and Olivia Munn's character to be far more fascinating than anything between him and Brooke. Brooke was this shielded woman who wouldn't know how to have a good time if it fell in her lap and Mike was all about the party and dreaming big. You would think there would be some point where one or the other gives in a little and compromises but that never happens. Mike eventually drops everything he had been working towards to make her happy, but that just seems like a horrible way to start a relationship. Everything about them felt false, yet the movie just kept insisting that they were perfect for each other which made it even more noticeable how wrong they were for each other.

The boys of Xquisite are there for your pleasure.

Lastly, I do want to say that I had some mild fun with Magic Mike regardless of how serious it took itself. A lot of the behind the scenes stuff at the club was pretty entertaining (just wait til you see that pump) and the stage performances were well choreographed and despite their brevity, they were the highlight of the film I thought. The actors were also having a good time for the most part which certainly helped when the dark times descended. I just wish I knew what exactly Soderbergh and Tatum were trying to say with this movie. They certainly aren't glamorizing the industry and they don't seem to have very much interest in it either since the majority of the film is taken up with Adam being reckless and Mike trying to hook up with Brooke. This whole film just felt confused and unfocused.

I don't know, maybe you can just chalk it up to this movie not being meant for me or any guy for that matter. But I don't think that is the problem since the audience I saw this with, which was predominantly female, were clearly there to have a good time (dressed in their club outfits and cheering whenever a naked male ass graced the screened), but even they got wore out by sobering tone of the film to the point where all those cheers started turning into yawns by the end. Seeing that enthusiasm turn to such indifference before my eyes told me everything I needed to know about Magic Mike. Women will love it for a while until they realize this isn't the 24/7 party it sold itself as and most men will find themselves bored to death by the cliche and ill conceived romance and extremely bland story. This movie just needed a whole lot more magic and a whole lot less of the melodrama. I suggest that if you really want to see Channing Tatum's naked ass that you wait and...




Unknown said...

So this is the new movie of Channing Tatum after finishing shooting the movie GI Joe Retaliation. It looks like Channing's role was one of the male strippers in perth.

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