Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Magic Mike Movie Review

The title Magic Mike (2012) probably stirs up mixed feelings in viewers. A movie about male strippers is probably going to appeal a lot more to women viewers than it will to men. Magic Mike is very like most "backstage" movies where we get to see the ugly side of what is otherwise seen as a glamorous industry; so mostly-naked men aside, it has potential to tell a good story.
Mike Lane (Channing Tatum) is a thirty-year old living in Tampa, Florida. By Day he works as a roofer whilst at night, as Magic Mike, he is the star attraction of the Kings of Tampa, a group of male strippers. Secretly he wants out in order to further a projected furniture-making business, but his credit rating precludes a bank loan for this despite his considerable savings. One night, Adam (Alex Pettyfer), a teen-aged work-mate of Mike, follows him to the club and, when one of the acts is unable to go on, he is convinced to strip - becoming a huge hit. However success goes to his head and his foolish actions not only threaten to jeopardize the relationship that his sister Brooke (Cody Horn) is forming with Mike, but with Mike's ambitions as well.
When I saw the previews for Magic Mike I was actually excited to see it. Not that I was anxious to see male strippers, but rather see a movie about fulfillment, self-actualization, and self-esteem from the perspective of sex icons. I think that has a lot of potential to be a fascinating story; a man who is basically adored and wanted by every woman who sees him, who fulfills their fantasies, but it's not a fulfilling life for him, dreams of doing something that is markedly unglamorous yet something he is passionate about. Magic Mike is in part based on Channing Tatum's experiences as  a male stripper before he got his start in acting. I would have thought he could provide more insight into the movie's characters and problems. Maybe he did, but they still seemed like predictable characters and conflicts.
In spite of the predictable characters and conflicts, I thought the dialogue was pretty well written. I genuinely liked the way Mike talked with Brooke; he was flirtatious, playful, smooth talking, and confident. Heck, I wish I had the presence of mind to talk to women that way. Mike has a few funny lines like, "Oh, you don't wanna know what I have to do for twenties." Matthew McConaughey plays Dallas, the charismatic stage manager and veteran stripper himself. He rents a club, pays for costumes and production, and allows his dancers to keep their own tips. He's the first one we see on stage, and pointing at his naughty bits asks the ladies if they'd like to touch them, then wags his finger saying, "No, no, NO, no!" It doesn't sound like a great scene, but think how easily that sort of scene could go wrong. Playing a hard-headed businessman who understands his product and his audience is probably one of McConaughey's better performances.
I've got to hand it to these actors; they do a pretty good job dancing. I didn't necessarily want to watch mostly naked men cavorting about on stage, but they do a pretty good job. Tatum, in particular is impressive; I would never have guessed that this large, bulky man could move like he does in the Magic Mike. He didn't have a dancing double, that was really him throwing down those slick moves; I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that's because of his experience in the industry. The choreographed dance scenes were actually pretty impressive if the muscle-bound shirtless men aren't too off putting for you.
I don't want to oversimplify Magic Mike, but roughly the first half was about mostly a series of male strip dances that were strung together by a scenes of young people out having fun being young people. It wasn't all that interesting, to be frank. The movie becomes progressively darker and we see how easily the industry can destroy a person. Whether you're a man or woman, making money by allowing people to push cash in your g-string is demeaning. Drugs and sex seep their way in and can leave people in ruins. I'm glad that Magic Mike shows us the drug-fueled depravity in unforgiving detail; when you sleep with a girl who has a pet piglet and wake up with the little guy eating your vomit, it's safe to say you've hit rock bottom. Mike does not do this, of course. This was Adam, and the repercussions not only hurt himself, but his friends and family. I'm impressed that Magic Mike did this so poignantly.
I was hoping for some kind of Dead Poets Society meets Coyote Ugly when I saw Magic Mike. While it didn't live up to my expectations, it wasn't really a bad movie. It does a better job of mixing Chippendale-style guilty pleasures with reality-based cautionary tales than you would expect. This is a pretty mature movie, though, particularly with the brutally honest drug usage. Most of the nudity actually comes from female characters, though you will see several thong-clad man hinies. There's a reason it's rated R. I can't honestly recommend Magic Mike unless you want an excuse to see some beefcake men tear off their clothes without actually getting a porn flick.

Magic Mike and Coyote Ugly are good examples of "backstage" movies that show us the ugly side of a glamorous industry. What are some other good "backstage" movies? I don't want to miss anything good.

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