Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Movie Review: "Magic Mike" (2012)

It's feigning men.

The movie is pretty much just an animated version of the its poster: all flash and no depth.  Neither fully guilty pleasure nor truly incisive storytelling, Magic Mike shows us a lot of muscles while neglecting the two most important organs of all: the heart and the brain.  

I just don't get what the big deal is about Channing Tatum.  Seriously, I don't.  He comes across here as a mostly shallow, charmless lump.  I also don't understand what the big deal is about Magic Mike.  A bunch of movie critics loved this movie, and you know as well as I do that most critics happen to be guys.  A metric ton of girls loved this movie (some of whom are my buddies), and I sort of see why if the attraction is just seeing  ogling some ripped dudes.  But after the first couple scenes of that sort of thing, I actually got bored.   Apparently my "female gaze" also demands the engagement of something known as my "intellect."  It's just not good enough to see a bunch of forms gyrating to cheesy music.

There's not much magic here, because movie magic really comes from smart writing, textured characters, and good acting.  None of those elements is really present, and not all the (very, admittedly) chiseled abs in the world can make up for that in the final analysis.  There's one point in the flick where a girl actually tells the Tatum character, "Don't talk.  Just look pretty."  I'm decently sure the line was intended as a joke instead of actual direction, but the entire movie plays as though those words were the mandate of director Steven Soderbergh.  Goodness knows the dialogue is just atrocious in places. (By the way, what's the deal with Soderbergh?  I absolutely love his Ocean's Eleven (2001), but his last two flicks (this and 2011's Haywire) just didn't resonate with me.)

Anyway, the story here centers on "Magic Mike" (Channing Tatum), a construction worker by day and a stripper by night.  Now Tatum himself used to be a stripper, so you'd be perfectly within your rights if you expect him to bring some insight based on personal experience ... or if you expect the writers and filmmakers to leverage that sort of resource into a movie that delves into the personalities and personal lives of such entertainers - to see the humanity behind the stage lights and props and silly outfits.  Soderbergh does seem at times to be going for a character study of Mike, but it never really seems to take off.  Mike and his friends seem to be a mass of caricatures.  Speaking of his friends ... A secondary storyline is about Mike befriending a younger guy (Alex Pettyfer) and bringing him into the business.  Pettyfer's character not only is a total slack-jawed non-entity, but he mumbles through every line and seems to have actual negative charisma.  He's like a black hole, and I found myself not only not invested in his character but growing to actively hate him more and more as time went by.  I mean, I hated this guy!  

Since I'm complaining about characterization ... Mike's stripper pals at the club have individual names, but you get no sense of them as individual people.  This is really too bad, because those actors elsewhere have had the chance to embody characters instead of mere muscly caricatures (Joe Mangianello on True Blood, Adam Rodriguez on CSI: Miami, and Matt Bomer on White Collar where - by the way - he's delightfully far more than just a pretty face).  I know they can act.  It's just that here, they're merely employed as a chorus of carnal cartoons.  What a waste.

No, wait, there's one person who has personality in this flick: Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), the owner of the club.  And what a personality he's got.  OK, true confessions here: I hate Matthew McConaughey ... or at least the persona he's got (know what I mean, La Parisienne?).  That whole winking, swaggering, skeevy "bad boy from Texas" thing he does just totally rubs me the wrong way.  Here in this flick, though, he gets to play that cartoonishness to the hilt: Dallas (come on, the dude's name is Dallas!) is a shameless Stetson-wearing, bare-chested, oily (both literally and metaphorically), guitar-strumming flesh peddler up to his eyeballs in sleaze and schemes.  It's the role McConaughey was born to play.

The third act of the flick is pretty much ridiculous, so I'll just say this: Regardless of what gender you are, if you want a movie about male strippers that's actually intelligent and engaging, with character, heart, soul, humor, and even its own kind of surprising oddball charm, then please, please go watch the 1997 British flick The Full Monty instead.  Trust me.  As for me, I'm going back to this.

Mad Minerva gives Magic Mike a C+.

RottenTomatoes gives this movie a Fresh rating of 80%.

Magic Mike runs 110 minutes and is rated R for language, drug and alcohol use, sexual situations, and brief nudity.

Oh, and I did wonder as I was proofreading this review: maybe I didn't like the movie because I'm just a dull, humorless prude?  But I went to check Flick Filosopher, the movie critic who has done a great (and engaging) deal of discussing "the female gaze," and she didn't like Magic Mike either.  OK, I feel better.

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