- Thursday, 12 July 2012
He may be talented, prolific and versatile, but Director Steven Soderbergh’s output is also uneven and has resulted in some disappointing films, too. That’s not the case with Magic Mike. It might be flawed and superficial, but Magic Mike is an entertaining romp through the world of male strippers in which the hunky actor Channing Tatum (21 Jump Street, the Vow) gets a whole lot sexier.
Magic Mike is an old fashioned American movie about the problematic ‘American Dream’, infused with Soderbergh’s signature touch: male sex appeal. If Soderbergh doesn’t always offer career-best roles for his actors, he gets career-sexiest performances. Has James Spader ever been more seductive in any film since In Sex, Lies and Videotape? Despite all his accomplishments since 1998, our image of George Clooney is likely to be frozen on Out of Sight. It was Soderbergh’s Traffic that put Benicio del Toro on the heartthrob map of Hollywood (and gave him an Oscar) for portraying a fully-clothed, corruption-weary cop.
Mike (Tatum) is proud to be an entrepreneur. He’s works a self-employed roofer, car detailer and designer of custom furniture. On weekend nights, however, he is transformed from Mike the builder, to Magic Mike, the main attraction of an all-male Revue show in Tampa, Florida. His acrobatic dirty-dancing has the screaming female audiences stuffing bills into his thong. And Mike sometimes takes his work home, waking up with two women in his bed.
But Mike, who is now 30, tells himself he is planning for the future and half believes it. He is saving his tips for a bank loan to open a designer furniture company and counting on a 10% share of proceeds when his club moves to Miami. Mike’s majority partner in the new club will be Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), owner of the Tampa Revue and a very different type of entrepreneur. McConaughey (who stars in Killer Joe, currently on release) is a terrific Dallas. A former-stripper who sports a perpetual tan and, now in his 40s, is the show’s sleazy MC, a cutthroat businessman and a manipulator.
When Mike meets 19-year-old Adam (Alex Pettyfer) on a construction site, he spots his potential and introduces him to Dallas. Dallas, though sceptical, sends Adam on stage to sink or swim as ‘The Kid’. When the Kid proves a hit Dallas betrays Mike. But Adam has none of Mikes drive and morality not to mention his talent. Fired from the construction site for theft, he is living with his older sister Brooke (Cody Horn), sleeping with the wrong women and dealing in drugs. Meanwhile, Mike is falling in love with the straight-laced Brooke, who disapproves of her brother’s new job and blames Mike.
Channing Tatum, who is also the film’s producer and business partner to scriptwriter Reid Carolin, says the story is semi-autobiographical. Tatum worked as a male stripper in his late teems and camped out on his sister’s couch just like Adam. The authenticity comes through, although the filmmakers have taken cinematic license in two areas: the women who frequent male strip clubs are nothing like than the thin, pretty, young babes in the film. And the elaborate dance acts take a lot longer to learn than suggested by the timescale in the story.
There are also problems with the story that have nothing to do with authenticity but undermine the film’s dramatic impact. Although Mike works hard, he works at labour intensive, relatively low paid jobs. It seems improbable that he could afford a large, duplex beach front property in Tampa.
Another problem, not so much with the plot as with Mike’s character, is the credibility of his dream. Why does he need a loan to start a custom-built furniture company? He simply makes one piece in his garage with some of the $13,000 he’s saved, sells it, and with the profit, make another, until word- of-mouth enables him to work on several at a time. We see Mike roofing and stripping but not making or selling the furniture. The filmmakers never make it clear if the furniture line is a pipe dream; a delusion to justify Mike’s guilt over his love of dancing; or if he’s simply afraid to fail in what he cares about most.
The moral of the film, that it isn’t what you do, it’s who you are that matters, is somewhat undermined by the preponderance and quality of the dance scenes. They are choreographed by Allison Faulk, who choreographed for Britney Spears and worked on Madonna’s 2012 World Tour. Mike is a talented performer and you wonder why he never tried his hand at dancing in more respectable musical theatre (there’s a lot in Florida) where the money might be better. In this respect, Magic Mike is a curious contrast to the film Flashdance where a female welder in a Pittsburgh factory dreams of being a professional dancer.
Despite these problems and, ironically, the lack of chemistry between Cody Horn, who plays Adam’s sister, Brooke, and Tatum, Magic Mike has enough moments of magic to keep you entertained.