Wednesday, July 11, 2012

MAGIC MIKE (2012)

Written by Reid Carolin


Directed by Steven Soderbergh


Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA.  June 29, 2012  5:45PM



Channing Tatum is the current prince of Hollywood, thanks to his past few roles in several moderately successful movies as he appeals to women with the romantic tearjerkers, "The Vow", "Dear John" and (to a lesser degree) men with the action-thriller, "G.I. Joe" and the comedy spoof, "21 Jump Street" which all have helped to raise his profile.

His latest, "Magic Mike" is poised to possibly take him to the next level as the film, directed by the respected Steven Soderbergh,  takes us in to the salacious world of male strippers. Mr.Tatum dazzles as the title character and lights up the screen, even when his clothes are on.

Women have been seductively removing their clothing on a stage for quite a long time but the question remains if there is the same interest in viewing nearly naked, hard muscled men bumping and grinding down to their g-strings. This film, loosely based on the early career of Mr. Tatum, seems designed to capture the attention of the ladies (as well as a certain segment of the male population) and it does this very well but it doesn't have too much to offer outside of the titillation.

Mike (Tatum), spends his days breaking a sweat on a construction site but by the time the sun has set in Tampa, he takes to the stage, sweating throughout the evening as a hip-hop stripper named, "Magic Mike". He has enjoyed all of the perks of being an exotic dancer but after six years, he's ready to move on. Mike dreams of becoming a furniture designer but because of bad credit, he is unable to get a loan to start his business despite offering the bank a down payment of his career-savings of dollar bills. On his day job, Mike meets Adam (Alex Pettyfer), a young, aimless slacker who sleeps on the couch of his sister, Brooke (Cody Horn). After Adam quits this job, through a series of circumstances, Mike introduces him to Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), the eccentric owner of the club, Xquisite and Adam becomes, "The Kid", the newest dancer.

The life of a male stripper appeals to Adam as the job offers him new-found attention from beautiful women, a sense of place and family with the other performers and a lot of cash. However, Adam soon gets swept up by the darker, sleazier side of this world where are there are plenty of wild parties and unscrupulous characters lurking around. Adam begins dealing drugs (and heavily using) and gets in over his head which concerns Brooke but Mike promises to watch out for her brother. Dallas is going to open a bigger club in Miami with an offer for Mike to be a partner. Will Mike continue on as a dancer in a different location or will he stay in Tampa to try and start a new life?

There really isn't much chance that many heterosexual men are going to want to rush out to the theater to see this film and there really isn't anything here that's particularly engaging or insightful that would encourage them to want to sit through the endless parade of half-naked men. "Magic Mike" is light-weight, predictable and drifts much closer to the high-camp of the female stripper flick, "Showgirls" than Mr. Soderbergh realizes but still manages to be quite entertaining. There is a sense of fun and good humor that comes through that makes all of this silliness watchable. Sexual politics is touched upon but what the film is displaying is the male fantasy of being an object of desire as women lose complete control in your presence and quite happily give as much money as possible in gratitude. Seems like nice work, if you can get it but most guys actually couldn't or probably shouldn't.

The focus of the film is supposed to be on the budding romance between Mike and the sweet, down-to-Earth, Brooke who offers him a possible alternative but since there isn't much chemistry between these actors and it doesn't help that the monotone Ms Horn is not exactly the most expressive of actresses, their scenes together fail to ignite or generate much interest. The friendship between  Mike and Adam is actually far more interesting although Mr. Pettyfer isn't able to leave much of a memorable impression either.

"Magic Mike" is the perfect showcase for Mr. Tatum as he effortlessly oozes plenty of natural charm and sensuality. Like Mark Wahlberg before him, Tatum doesn't register great intellect on screen but he does comes across as a sweet, fun-loving lunkhead with some killer dance moves. He plays Mike as a stripper with a big heart as all he wants is to help the down on their luck and willing to make great personal sacrifices on their behalf. I don't know how believable this character would actually be but he still does a fine job. Mr. McConaughey has finally decided to break out of romantic-comedy rut and return to displaying some of the early promise he had at the beginning of his film career as a character actor. He plays with his own shirtless, party beach-boy image but adds the right amount of a quirky, dark edge to an aging former stripper with an ego-driven quest for power in this small scale business of flesh peddling. The actors who fill in as the other dancers of the club are familiar faces, mostly from television, which includes Matt Bomer ("White Collar") and Adam Rodriguez ("CSI: Miami") but they are given nothing to offer but their gyrating flesh while performing plenty of cheesy choreography. However, if you ever wondered what "True Blood" 's Joe Manganiello (known in the film as "Big Dick" Ritchie) would look like in a fireman's uniform, "Magic Mike" gives you that opportunity although it doesn't stay on for too long.

"Magic Mike" is a tease of a movie where it distracts you with a tantalizing display of glistening, scantily-clad bodies thrusting at you but once you get past that, there really isn't much else left to see.