Saturday, January 18, 2014

Magic Mike (2012) ***1/2

Would you believe Channing Tatum used to actually BE a stripper?  You probably would.  He‘s made quite a  career of being a himbo.  How ironic then that the movie that convinced me there is more to Tatum is the one where he takes his clothes off the most.  I wasn‘t just impressed by his acting, which is quite serviceable, if not Oscar-level;  Tatum was the major force behind this film.  He conceived the film, recruited Steven Soderbergh to direct it, and co-financed it.  The fact that the film was a massive hit with a budget of only $7 million suggests that Tatum is either an up-and-coming force to be reckoned with or at least very lucky.
Tatum stars as Mike, a guy hustling to make his fortune one way or another.  In addition to stripping, he works as a roofer, a car detailer, and furniture-maker.  He understands that he can’t make his living with his body forever, so he works tirelessly to become a successful businessman.  When Mike meets 19-year-old Adam, he takes him under his wing and introduces him to the world of stripping.  While Adam sorts himself out among all the money, girls, and drugs he can handle, Mike tries to parlay his longstanding position with strip-club owner Dallas (Matthew McConaughey) into a share of the growing business.  Meanwhile, Mike finds himself falling for Adam’s sister (Cody Horne).  He also faces the growing realization that most of the world, including the women he sleeps with, view him not as a hard working businessman, but as a “bullshit, 30-year-old, male stripper.”
“Magic Mike” manages the trick of making fun of stripper culture and the objectification of beautiful, young bodies while at the same time giving viewers a healthy dose of the same.  This was THE 2012 movie that women went to see with their friends, and what’s cool is that while they were getting an eyeful, they were actually watching a low-budget, Steven Soderbergh art film.  It’s a decent story, too.  The exploration of the Mike character, who is born with looks and charm but dreams of being something more, makes a good coming-of-age movie.
In a film with a $7 million budget, there aren’t going to be any car chases or explosions; the burden falls on the actors.  Channing Tatum delivers an admirable performance, even if the character seems a lot like every other character he has played.  He is basically a beefy, square-jawed action-figure, and it’s going to take some effort for him to break out of that mold and get into some roles that require actual acting.  (Adding “Movie Producer” to his resume will probably help.)  Maybe his career will mirror that of Matthew McConaughey, another guy who spent some time making money off his abs, but who is now a respected actor with a varied filmography and Oscar buzz.  In “Magic Mike,” McConaughey portrays Dallas with a flamboyance that is off the chart.
The only weak link in the cast is Cody Horn, who is such a bland, mouth-breather of an actress that she makes Kristen Stewart look like Meryl Streep.  Her acting is something of a distraction, but it turns out her dad is the chairman of Walt Disney Studios and the former president of Warner Bros.  When you are making a movie on a budget, I guess casting someone with family connections is what you have to do.  Come to think of it, this is a movie about people doing whatever they have to do to make a living, so maybe her casting is perfect.

3.5 stars out of 5

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