In so many ways this movie is a hard sell. Back in the 90s there was a spate of movies about female strippers (Showgirls and Striptease) which didn’t fare too well; the former being a cult classic of unintentionally hilarious trash and the latter being all but forgotten altogether (which, let’s face it, is for the best). But, both of those were about women. Male sexual explotation in film is much less prevalent. But here we have a serious film about men who strip starring well know actors, directed by a serious filmmaker. How did this even happen?
Based, loosely, on star Channing Tatum’s own past as a male exotic dancer, “Magic Mike” is the story of a young man (Alex Pettyfer) who gets brought into this world of sex, drugs, and pot-bellied pigs (really). The movie is similar to “Boogie Nights” in both story and tone in that we learn about this seedy world through the new guy’s eyes.
The several performance numbers are what sold this film to most. Joining Tatum and Pettyfer in the striprionics are Adam Rodriguez (CSI: Miami), Matt Bomer (White Collar), Joe Manganiello (True Blood), Kevin Nash (WWE’s Diesel), and Matthew McConaughey as their stripper mentor. They gyrate, pose, thrust, grope, tease and dance (or in Nash’s case, move in a twitchy arhythmic manner) through several numbers. To be honest, no one will be watching anyone but known dancer Tatum who burns up the stage in every one of his performances. The scenes in the club are really the best parts of this film. The cast comes alive and the production value amps up incredibly.
Sadly, those scenes are too few and too far between to sustain a film. The true focus of the film is Tatum’s titular Mike trying to be the best he can be at all of the things he does and in the meantime trying to forge a relationship with Pettyfer’s sister, played by the shockingly awful Cody Horn (We’ll get to her in a minute). Tatum is easily the best actor in this film in so many ways, his ease as Mike doesn’t even feel like acting. His is the only performance in this whole piece that one could call “real.”
And then there’s the rest. Latley, especially in “indie” cinema (See the aforementioned “Boogie Nights”, or any Wes Anderson film for examples. Along with thousands of others. It’s mind-boggling that people praise this “style”) there’s been this trend for performances to be more…flat. I’m not sure if this is to emphasize the emotional moments when they arrive and the actors are allowed to act or what but it’s so prevalent in “small” movies that it’s becoming almost a style. The biggest problem I have with this is that I don’t go to movies to see pretty robots be flat and emotionless but also because is really emphasizes bad acting. This brings us to our love interest, Cody Horn. Ignore the washed out viuals that make this movie look older than it is (to the point that when an iPhone is shown it’s really confusing), ignore the weird camera angles and pans, ignore even the scenes where you can tell Soderbergh just turned on the camera and didn’t tell the actors (something they admit did occur), Cody Horn ruins this movie in so many ways. Whenever she’s on screen the action, as it were, screeches to a halt. A stuttering, twitchy halt with the worst laugh in human history. I cannot express enough how much this woman needs to find a new career.
“Magic Mike” will go down in history as a successful experiment proving that movies aimed mostly at women can sell, and sell well. That the movie is not a train wreck is simply a plus. But, the flatness, and unevenness along with a plotline that is just so so doesn’t move this beyond what it is: a gimmick film. C+