Ladies, be forewarned: the Magic Mike
trailers are misleading. They promise sexy, well-toned men dancing on stage with the end result of their well choreographed numbers being glorious male bodies in very little clothing. We're promised a fun time. We're promised comedy, male camaraderie on screen, and basically a film that caters to the underserved demographic waiting with bated breath for the Fifty Shades of Grey
movie. That's what the trailers all push. Channing Tatum
, Matthew McConaughey
, Alex Pettyfer
, Matt Bomer
, and Joe Manganiello
's sexy werewolf, 'Alcide') in thongs, with a little dialogue thrown in to move the story along. What Steven Soderbergh actually delivers is an entirely different film from those promotional teases. I assumed - yes, I realize that's never a wise approach when it comes to feature films - Magic Mike
would be a summertime comedy/romance with a few brief glimpses into the darker side of stripping (keeping in mind this is a Soderbergh film) cushioned by enough dance numbers to sugarcoat the negative aspects. I seriously misjudged how dark the film would actually get.
Magic Mike sells itself as a male stripper film, a movie that could be considered a little payback for all the films that objectify women. "It's our turn, ladies!" could have been the battle cry when it came to this 2012 R-rated movie based in the world of erotic entertainment. I mean, it's perfectly set up that way. But, it's a neutered version of what was promised to us in those trailers. Damn them for showing Hollywood hunks dancing for our pleasure and then sliding in a film that is strangely sexless.
Oh, there are a few dance numbers in the movie, but I've got to believe what's on the cutting room floor - or perhaps will be included in the DVD extras - are fleshed out (pardon the pun) versions of those choreographed pieces. The women in the preview audience were into the numbers, cheering on the actors and generally having a good time for the first half hour, right up until Soderbergh
and screenwriter Reid Carolin threw on the brakes by transitioning the film from a story of how and why men would strip to drug deals gone bad and Mike's financial problems as he tries to establish his own furniture business while the club boss dangles promises of equity in a new club over his head to keep him in line. Do we go into this film wanting to see thugs trashing a home or someone sleeping in their own vomit after nearly overdosing? No. I don't recall hearing a single member of the target audience discussing why they wanted to see Magic Mike
and mentioning anything other than men dancing in thongs. Sure, you have to have a story to surround the 'stripping' theme, but the demographic that wants to see this movie is not being well-served here.
None of these shortcomings are the fault of the actors who obviously just went for it when it came to embracing their roles as strippers. They dance, flaunt their bodies, and generally appear as though they would be perfectly at ease on stage at a real adult club. And Channing Tatum is a stud on the dance floor, with his poor fellow Magic Mike actors not even playing in the same ballpark.
The Bottom Line:
For a film about men taking their clothes off to please women, Magic Mike misses the mark by not just giving the audience what we want. A little more spice on stage to balance out the seedy side of the business that bogs down the second half of the film would have been greatly appreciated. Oh, and a little more time spent on the stripping scenes themselves - since that's how this film is being marketed - would also have garnered more goodwill. They seem to end prematurely, just so Soderbergh can cut to another scene of uninspired dialogue. Again, target missed, opportunity lost.
Magic Mike was directed by Steven Soderbergh and is rated R for pervasive sexual content, brief graphic nudity, language and some drug use.
Theatrical Release: June 29, 2012