Wednesday, 25 July 2012
FILM REVIEW: MAGIC MIKE
Opens July 26
Perhaps Lady Luck had a hand in proceedings, but it's more than likely a mere coincidence that Magic Mike, Steven Soderbergh's take on the world of male strippers, should land in our cinemas -- and laps -- at the same time that the erotic novel, 50 Shades of Grey, is racking up book (and adult toy) sales around the globe.
Soderbergh came up with the idea after talking with leading man Channing Tatum during the filming of their previous collaboration, Haywire; Tatum revealing his pre-acting past where he was a member (pardon the pun) of a male erotic revue. Magic Mike, penned by Reid Carolin, no doubt draws on some of Tatum's experiences but the actor adopts the titular role here as a veteran of sorts of male exotic dancing.
Tatum's avatar, if you like, is Adam (Alex Pettyfer), a 19-year-old failed college footballer with no prospects but good looks and a hot bod. Mike introduces 'The Kid' to this heady world, full of alcohol-fuelled women out front and jockstraps and penis pumps backstage, and all overseen by Dallas (Matthew McConaughey).
Dallas is the wizened old stripper who is both leader of the pack and mother hen to his small but committed troupe, comprised of Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello), Tito (Adam Rodriguez), Ken (Matt Bomer), and Tarzan (Kevin Nash). And McConaughey is great in the role, and still in great shape for an 'old guy'.
Not afraid to bare almost all or to look silly, the actor in a tight yellow tank top and black short shorts is a sight to behold. I'm not sure if he auditioned for the role of Stacee Jaxx in Rock of Ages, but McConaughey could certainly have shown Tom Cruise a thing or two.
Magic Mike is a 'star is born' story charting the rise of Adam in the world of stripping, and essentially a parable about sudden celebrity, be it as an actor or athlete, and the mixed blessings it can bring. Mike, who has ambitions outside of stripping -- he makes furniture from recycled materials -- is smart enough to know that taking his clothes off is a means to an end.
But Adam, young, dumb and full of confidence, is dazzled by life in the spotlight. And as his big sister Brooke (Cody Horn) fears, he is susceptible to the pitfalls accompanying the sudden easy access to sex and drugs, both of which make their presence felt when Soderbergh's film takes a darker turn in its second half.
But for all of those dark subjects, Magic Mike is a rather conservative affair. And for a film about male strippers, there is a noticeable absence of cock. You'll see more bare breasts than you will male appendages, and Soderbergh (as cinematographer Peter Andrews) is at great pains to even avoid his actors' crotches during their on-stage routines; it's all abs and butt cheeks but no balls.
Still, the film is at its best when Mike, Adam and the rest of the guys are on stage, bumping and grinding in various states of undress; Tatum got his big break in dance flick Step Up (2006) and the guy has still got the moves. It's when we venture outside into the daylight, and a budding romance between Mike and Brooke (Horn is no great shakes as an actress), that Magic Mike loses some of its momentum.
But the predominantly female audience for Magic Mike certainly shouldn't feel they are being short changed: they're getting bang for their buck. As are the producers, with Magic Mike (made on a budget of $7m) passing $100 million at the U.S. box office this past weekend.
It's something that Hollywood tends to forget on a regular basis: that women go to the movies, and they have money too. And when you produce something that hits their G-spot -- or funny bone, as evidenced with Bridesmaids last year -- they're more than happy to stuff wads of cash in the metaphorical g-string that is the box office. All but naked man candy only sweetens the deal.