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LAFF Review: Magic Mike

'It really feels like they’re embarrassed to make the male stripper movie…'

 

People were joking when they heard Steven Soderbergh was directing a movie about male strippers. I never had any doubt that Steven Soderbergh could make an excellent legitimate movie about male strippers. What I never expected was that it would be completely mediocre.

Magic Mike (Channing Tatum) is one of the star performers at Club Xquisite, run by Dallas (Matthew McConaughey). During the day he works construction, where he meets Adam (Alex Pettyfer), a screw-up who can’t even hold down a day of honest work. That night Mike runs into Adam outside a club, and graciously takes him under his wing. They recruit some girls to come to Xquisite for the show, and when one of the performers can’t go on, Mike puts Adam on stage, calling him The Kid.

The industry that surrounds male stripping is interesting, how they troll clubs and pick out likely prospects to pull for their audience. Unfortunately that’s the only interesting aspect of stripping Magic Mike explores. After that, it feels like a whole lot of filler in between stripping scenes. And I know, you don’t just want to make the male stripping movie, but if you fill your story with banal clichés, you might as well just make the stripping movie.

Mike keeps pursuing Adam’s sister (Cody Horn) as if he’s interested in her. They spend an entire day at the beach in what feels like real time, and later at a go kart park, and there is no personality or energy to this relationship subplot. Mike has a bit more chemistry with his booty call Joanna (Olivia Munn), who does a completely unnecessary topless scene because it’s a Soderbergh movie, so thank you for that. Storywise, is it supposed to be a surprise that Mike can’t count on his bisexual hookup? Because that wasn’t news to me. I get a sense about people early on, and I knew what Joanna was. And great, have fun with that relationship, but don’t make it a turning point of the story.

The dancing isn’t that good. As a group, I think they had to keep the choreography simple for the most novice dancer. Tatum gets a little more acrobatic when he dances solo, but it’s no Step Up. McConaughey sure is a flexible dude though. There are a few male butts but I think there are still more women’s breasts in the movie, which offends me on behalf of the female audience.

There are a few funny bits backstage with the strippers, in training with Dallas slithering around in a speedo and tank top, and Mike dressed as Marilyn Monroe. They montage a lot of the dancing out. Maybe we’ll get to see all the full dance numbers on the DVD.

By the time the world of male stripping starts to turn dark, it actually seems to come out of nowhere. Like now it’s time for the downfall, but it wasn’t really going that way. I mean, Adam was unreliable to begin with, so just like Joanna it shouldn’t be any surprise when he screws someone over. Is the movie supposed to be about characters who don’t understand human nature? I guess everyone has to learn the hard way, but I feel like it’s not a big enough reveal to count as “character development.”

The film could have spent some of that party time gradually creeping into dark territory, instead of romping around at the beach. Instead they throw in an orgy and spring an Ecstasy subplot out of nowhere.

Mike has big dreams. He designs furniture but he can’t get a bank loan because of his credit. He wants a stake in Dallas’s new club. These scenes all feel like filler. You’re not really invested in the story of Mike following his dreams, and just giving him an arbitrary hobby/business plan does not make the stripping scenes more than beefcake shows.

It really feels like they’re embarrassed to make the male stripper movie, but they totally half assed the story anyway. Just be honest and do the male stripper movie. People will respect you more for that.