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Magic Mike (2012)

July 1, 2012

MY CALL:  I really get tired of saying this, but the trailer looked so promising and I had high hopes for this flick [CLICK HERE to see the trailer]. So many things went wrong with this movie pitched by former male stripper Channing Tatum.  This flick really would benefit from another round of thoughtful post-production, some reshoots and even some rewriting.  Just to be clear, not a glowing recommendation.  WHAT TO WATCH INSTEADStriptease (1996), though from the female perspective, succeeded in all things that Magic Mike tried and failed to execute except for the “rookie taken under the veteran’s wing” component.

Some of the stars at the Entertainment Weekly photo shoot got a little nervous that Manganiello (far right) would wolf out and grind them up into his protein shake.  Judging by his size, a relevant concern.

Mike (Channing Tatum) is a likable character. He sports an ever-approachable “aw, shucks” grin that will make ladies skip a heartbeat and a not-so-gooey yen for something more out of life.  The story is simple enough.  A veteran male stripper takes a sharp, young transient under his wing.  Then we (sort of) see what it’s like to be a male stripper: the lifestyle, how enamoring it is to the young and aimless, how impractical it may appear with time to the more mature and experienced.  Then there are some romantic and drug-related sideplots.

Are they doing YMCA or Macho Man?  I can’t tell.

And what’s going on with the big ugly guy in the back left?  It’s a bit awkward.

“You don’t want to know what I’ve gotta’ do for 20s.”  That line seemed really funny in the trailer, but somehow totally awkward and not funny in the movie.

Several scenes from the trailer seemed like they had the potential to affect audiences—Mike’s candid attempts at sincerity, not too over-the-top on the job humor, his jest about his “first fight” with Cody Horn.  However, this movie was so poorly shot and under-produced that these scenes were much more effective in their abbreviated trailer snippets than in the movie itself.  Some would argue that a low budget and simple camerawork shouldn’t detract from good content.  But here I beg to differ.  With the exception of a few dance routines, camera angles seemed to be chosen with all the convenience and thoughtlessness of setting up a tripod in a stationary position to capture the goings-on of a baby shower.  From time to time the top of an actor’s head may stray outside of the frame, which felt amateur.  There were many scenes which had no background music.  I normally wouldn’t even notice the subtle tune lingering behind actors’ dialogue.  That is, unless, it’s not there.  It felt like watching a screening of a scene in post-production before they scored the film.  As a result, the background noise felt like, well, “noise.”  For example, while having a chat on the beach, their feet splashing in the water felt fake and hardly in sync with their movement.  My attention shouldn’t be drawn to this.  Just amateur—and strange when considering the tactfulness of Soderbergh’s grittier installments like Haywire and Contagion.  This movie really felt like they never finished post-production or assessed the need for reshoots.

Unfortunately, as huge as that complaint was, that wasn’t the only problem.  Joining Tatum at the bro-spa for butt waxes was Alex Pettyfer (In Time, I Am Number Four) who plays Adam, a rookie to the business who is unwarily recruited by Mike. I was hoping that this would make for some fun “firsts” as he is hazed into the business by some overly handsy patrons or shyness on stage or having his first manscaping appointment waxing his nether regions.  All good funny ideas, right?  We see none of this.  Just an awkwardly hands on lesson about crotch-popping by McConaughey (Dallas) and a forgettable prank by a fellow stripper—neither were done well.  Adam’s transition into the business is boringly smooth.  The majority of the strip routines were dull, too, even a bit awkward or wooden, except for a few of Tatum’s Step Up tributes.


The other strippers include Matt Bomer (White Collar, In Time), Adam Rodriguez (CSI: Miami) and 53-year old Kevin Nash (Rock of Ages), who appears quite out of place and always seems “lost” during stage routines as if he were at a rehearsal with a hangover.  True Blood’s Joe Manganiello (Big Dick Richie) felt sorely under-utilized in terms of dialogue.  However, there was one very funny, though brief, scene of him preparing with a penis pump, which he pumps so hard that he gets a little woozy.  The “fluffy” comedian Gabriel Iglesias plays the club DJ and drug dealer.

 As Dallas, Matthew McConaughey plays mentor, friend and villain (sort of).  His villain phase, along with some drug-related issues introduced by the DJ to Adam, made for a sideplot which I found unnecessary and far too serious given the misleadingly light-hearted movie the trailers suggested.  As Adam’s sister, Cody Horn does okay—maybe even well.  But while she’s supposed to serve as a love interest for Mike, she comes off as a moral compass and delivery vessel forcing Mike to weigh what he wants out of life.  I hate to sound shallow, but I didn’t find her to be a remotely credible mate for Channing Tatum—not by a long shot.  Diminishing her effectiveness as a love interest was Olivia Munn (HBO’s The Newsroom).   In the trailer Munn is just some chick who comments on Mike’s furniture (that he made) whereas in the movie he spends more time pursuing her than Cody Horn. [Oh, and for all the Olivia Munn G4 fans, you see her topless.]  In sum, more things that the trailer misadvertized and more things about this movie that didn’t work.

Despite having more shiny abs and waxed chests than a Gilette ad marathon, the cast is impressive and full of guys that guys like to root for.

What did work was the endearing bromance between veteran thong-slinger Mike and 19-year old Adam in the first half of the movie.  Very cute.  Reminded me of college.  Their dynamic slowly broke down as the more dramatic elements of the movie stacked up on their way to an abrupt ending.  I also really enjoyed the all scenes depicting Mike’s (et al.) casual and indulgent lifestyle—especially the opening scene with Olivia Munn when neither of them know the name of their threesome’s third from last night and they joke about it while she sleeps.  I suppose, of course, that for women and gay men there was another major success to this film: LOTS of bare male butt.  Butts in thongs, butts in bare-assed chaps, buts without so much as a G-string, even shadowy silhouettes of butts (and, ummmm, you know—a teensy bit of that, too).  I feel that fans affected by such eye candy are responsible for any and all positive reviews of this movie.

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