22 July 2012

"You Don't Wanna Know What I Have To Do for Twenties"

I had hoped that going to see Steven Soderbergh's new film Magic Mike at the relatively refined Everyman cinema on Baker Street, rather than my local Odeon, would minimise the gaggles of giggling girls, especially on the sunniest Sunday afternoon in months. Sadly not. I guess movies where Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey spend a lot of time getting their kit off and shaking their thang are pretty equalizing in that way.

Tatum is the eponymous Mike, a 30-something stripper/entrepreneur who has been saving his tips for years so that he can start his own custom furniture design business. He dreams of a better life, you see. In the meantime, though, he can make several hundred bucks in the course of an hour and he kind of likes it working for Dallas (McConaughey), the owner and kingpin of their strip club. Then, working one of his day jobs, he meets Adam (Stevenage's finest, Alex Pettyfer), a 19-year-old college drop-out who is living with his sister (Cody Horn) and who doesn't want a job where he has to where a tie or really work very hard for more than a few hours a day. Adam is quite buff though so Mike recruits him on behalf of Dallas, and before long The Kid becomes one of the most popular acts in the club, much to the disapproval of Brooke, his sister. Naturally, Adam finds that stripping isn't all glamour and greenbacks, and Mike worries he is starting to lose his magic and, worse, starting to lose his taste for putting himself out there every weekend. But is there life after stripping? And if so, is it even worth living?

Don't worry. Magic Mike doesn't get all philosophical, not even in its final act. In fact, I often forgot I was watching a Steven Soderbergh film. I quite liked the movie and McConaughey, as everyone says, really steals the show as the vain, money-obsessed king of his seedy, underworld kingdom. And Tatum is OK, batting his eyelashes at Brooke, all, "hey, I might be a strippper, but I'm a good person." When he's not insulting her taste in furniture that is. Oh, the banter!

And that's part of my problem with the film: if it wasn't going to be making any deep and meaningful point, it could have done with a cleverer, sharper script. As it was, there were only a few chuckles from the audience and, let's face it, mainly during the stripping scenes. I like Soderbergh a lot and maybe I'm missing the point, but I felt Magic Mike either needed to be darker or funnier. Maybe hiring someone charismatic to play Mike--Mark Wahlberg, for example, although he's too old for the role now--would have worked better, because Tatum and his Mike just seemed to lack a lot of the magic we were told to expect.

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