Detachable thongs, baby oil and hoards of expectant six pack enthusiasts’ aside Steven Soderbergh’s strip-o-drama which places Channing Tatum fiercely front and center manages to provide a varied experience. The film struggles in its balancing the contrasting tones (and entertainment value) offstage and onstage.
Onstage Soderbergh presents events with apt flair; cameras slickly swirl and pound with every performer’s stage slide and gyration. For the most part these choreographed scenes are compelling until the novelty does start to slightly wane with the inevitable but likely realistic repetition. The troupe performances as a whole are impressive, whilst their perpetual bumping and grinding isn’t necessarily poetry it is undeniably well staged and frankly hypnotic. But in these somewhat infectious moments we fully understand why Warner Brothers have happily plastered our shirtless lead on billboards and buses throughout the land. It is damn hard to take a disliking to Channing Tatum in the titular role who is all heart beneath the Velcro-rip costumes and sculpted torso; I imagine it will be hard for anyone, regardless of their gender or preference, to not hand it to the once upon a time stripper for his physicality, the actor/producer becomes presence personified when he throws down on the main stage!
Cody Horn as the ‘pretty voice of reason’ is slightly grating, as a personification of the sort of good girl Mike finds unobtainable thanks to his career she falls a bit short in likeability even if some of her skepticism is well founded. Alex Pettyfer fits his role naturally carrying a wealth of youthful arrogance confused for hopeful swagger. Then there is Matthew Mcconaughey, returning to a form which may or may not have actually ever existed, I suspect his performance will make or break a lot of people’s enjoyment of the film. For anyone who backs his individual brand of laid back southern smugness come charm will have a field day as he glides across the screen, all charisma and almost over the hill regret, it is a spirited and highly amusing performance to say the least. Everyone else does their duty accordingly but don’t attain memorability beyond maybe providing a further choice of eye-candy or dance prowess.
It’s definitely not advisable to be swayed by any Boogie Nights comparisons that crop up here and there as Magic Mike doesn’t come within miles of it in tone or depth, factually the closest it comes to resembling Paul Anderson’s porn based epic (albeit in a vastly briefer sense) are the glimpses of the ‘’darker side of the sex industry’’ which here play out derivatively and frustratingly in a very tentative manner. The 2-D rather than 3-D approach to the characters, story and sparing of controversy leave events feeling rather meek. Some details hinder any potential credibility to, I couldn’t get over the majority of the ‘Xquisite’ club patrons seem odd or perhaps lazily cast as too many were young and Hollywood-like, breaking some of the believability that this is an accurate depiction of a male strip club demographic.
Almost a less camp and more aware Show Girls, but in a complete reverse of Paul Verhauven’s kitsch-fest it’s when off stage Magic Mike falters. The script is not great and aside from some mildly endearing bromance banter the chemistry is lacking too often between pivotal interactions, Horn and Tatum in particular only manage to generate a lukewarm awkwardness that ultimately hinders.
Considering the fun and engaging stage routines make up less than half of the movie (more’s the pity and not just for glistening man flesh) I don’t think it’s irrational to expect the ‘reflection and emotional’ parts of the narrative to hold interest, but Magic Mike is all too light on its exploration of its subjects, to the extent it breezes over and under the needed complexity to drive the drama. Channing Tatum will deservedly find a whole legion of new fans and some of us can remember why we like Matthew Mcconaughey so much, and though not as flippantly bawdy or alienating as one might assume still a shame the narrative muscle doesn’t match that of its stars.