CHANNING TATUM ALEX PETTYFER MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY CODY HORN
When I spoke with Mr. 2012, Channing Tatum at this year’s SXSW he said “I hope
it [Magic Mike] lives up to the hype”. For those who want nothing more than to see
a couple of McConaughey and Tatum cheek shots, this film will fulfill that. However,
running at two hours, the majority of viewers will want and expect more and, therefore,
will be disappointed. There are some very funny moments, all revolving around McConaughey
(who is really the man of the year, even though he isn’t getting the recognition
Tatum is), who works the viewers just like he is working the crowd. Magic Mike is
a gimmick movie; the draw is male strippers, but the clever idea stops there and
even Oscar winning Steven Soderbergh doesn’t elevate this story beyond another on
stage romp with no valuable story in between.
30 year old entrepreneur/stripper Mike (Tatum) has helped his boss and owner of
the Tampa Escapades male strip club turn something completely ridiculous into a cash
cow. Dallas (McConaughey) has assembled a variety of men who take it off while women
throw money at them or “make it rain” as he calls it. Mike, who also works a construction
day job, throws his new buddy Adam “the kid” on stage to see what he can do and,
in turn, creates a monster. Adam’s older sister Brooke (Horn) asks Mike to look after
her brother, who is eager for a shortcut to money and pleasure. It doesn’t take long
for the sleazy lifestyle and everything that goes along with being a male stripper
to corrupt Adam and create tension between Mike and Brooke’s relationship.
Soderbergh (Oceans Eleven, Contagion) tries to elevate an otherwise cheap (in every
sense of the word) storyline into something more than it can be. The first half of
the film is all about the crazy world these strippers live in; its funny, different
and pretty entertaining. However, with the second half of the film, Soderbergh and
Tatum, who produced it since the entire concept was based on his early stripper days,
try to turn the tables and show why everything in the first half of the movie is
now corruptive, negative and how to learn a lesson from it. Clearly, the money behind
this film is the sexual world of these male characters and not this redemptive story,
which is just weak and disappointing. Coyote Ugly (the film about scantily clad bartenders)
did the exact same thing we see here, this is just the R-rated male version.
Tatum actually originally wanted Nicholas Winding Refn (Drive) to direct this film
(insert laugh here), but when Tatum mentioned the idea to Soderbergh on the set of
Haywire, the deal was made. The casting of McConaughey was inspired and well timed,
and Tatum is also the right choice for this role (even though it’s the same persona
he continues to play). However, despite the title “Magic Mike", there isn’t that
much magic to the character or the story. The writing of the second half felt like
a screenwriter with writer's block because, much like Charlie Kaufman’s dilemma in
the film Adaptation (how do you write an entire screenplay about a flower?), this
film has nowhere to go. Whether this film is received well or not will not stop the
fans of Tatum and McConaughey from paying to see them in the flesh.
Final Thought – Plenty of Mike, very little magic.