Monday, July 2, 2012

Magic Mike

Review by Bob Ignizio

Before he was a movie star, Channing Tatum paid the bills as a male stripper. MAGIC MIKE is to some degree based on that, although “artistic license” has no doubt been invoked for dramatic effect. As the titular character, Tatum comes across as likable but flawed. To invoke an old cliché, he's “only doing it for the money”, hoping to make enough cash from his night job to start a business making custom furniture.

Mike also works a day job in construction, which is where he meets 19 year old slacker Adam (Alex Pettyfer). Mike senses potential in Adam and helps get him a job dancing in the male revue managed by Dallas (Matthew McConaughey). Adam's sister Brooke (Cody Horn) is less than thrilled, but Mike manages to calm her down with his smooth talking and promises to look after Adam. Adam quickly becomes almost as popular as Mike in the revue, predictably leading to an inflated ego, drug problems, and other difficulties.

But let's be real here. The main reason women and gay men will be plunking down their hard earned cash to see MAGIC MIKE is for the chance to ogle sexy guys in little or no clothing as they bump and grind. It's been kind of amusing to hear the strong negative reactions of guys to the mere existence of this film. It's hard to tell if they're more worried that seeing MAGIC MIKE will somehow magically turn them gay, or perhaps make them seem inadequate to their wives and girlfriends. But really, considering how many films objectify women in a similar way, isn't turnabout fair play?

That said, there's more to MAGIC MIKE than mere sex appeal. Although Reid Carolin is credited as the sole screenwriter, his work was based on Tatum's actual experiences, and much of what we see has the feel of truth. Steven Soderbergh's direction gives the film a gritty indie film sheen, and the actors all turn in fine performances. I've said it before, and I'll say it again here: Tatum is a much better actor than he's usually given credit for, and once again he does a great job here.

As much fun as portions of MAGIC MIKE are, it eventually goes limp in the final stretch. At almost 2 hours in length, it really does overstay its welcome. The wrap up feels incredibly rushed, and hinges on a romantic connection between Mike and Brooke that the movie just doesn't develop enough to make us believe things would play out the way they do. It's certainly better than something like SHOWGIRLS, for example, but given the talent involved it could have been even better. 2 1/2 out of 4 stars.

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