Magic Mike and the Boys
I really wanted to love Magic Mike. I mean, it has Channing “Is there anything I can’t do?” Tatum, who can go from being a torch carrying Nicholas Sparks romantic lead—twice--to the bumbling airhead sidekick in 21 Jump Street and damned near anything else without breaking a sweat. Unless the script calls for it.
Oh, and he can dance his ass off, too--it was, after all, that first Step Up, that vaulted him into the star-o-sphere.
No doubt about it, it is very good to be Channing Tatum right now. And I for one am delighted.
But I didn’t know ‘til the end credits rolled that Magic Mike was directed by Steven Soderbergh. Who until the wee hours of this morning--I went to the 12:01 a.m. showing packed with squealy little teenie babies--had never made a movie I wasn’t at least intrigued by. Including the two- part Che Guevara biopic project that is one of the many reasons I stay so intrigued.
Soderbergh, like Tatum, seems to be able to make any kind of script more interesting than anybody else could. Maybe even better than those scripts deserved to be.
So…perfect pair, right?
Oh, there’s a little dancin’ and little romancin’ to be sure. But there’s just too little of both--the party ends just when it's gettin' good.
And I don’t care if the New York Times found all kinds of social and political subtext in the spare story of a stripper who wants to be a businessman but can’t charm bankers--even really pretty and somewhat smitten ones--the way he can the ladies at the club. Stripped down, pun intended, it’s a story that’s been done before…and better.
That’s not to say you won’t have a real good time if you decide to see it even so. I think even the poor guys who get dragged into the theater by their Tatum-lovin’ ladies will enjoy it—and that’s sayin’ a lot, right?
But beware, boys. Tatum is tantalizing when he hits that stage—sick moves it’d be hard to match.
But that’s both a blessing and a flaw—who would give up the chance to strut that much stuff every night? Maybe the big move to Miami would’ve led to a legit career. Maybe he gave it up for love a little too quickly and easily.
I’m just sayin’…
But that was not The Point.
The Point was made in the really predictable and seriously underdeveloped subplot that had Mike pursuing the sister of Adam, a 19-year-old doofus of a guy (Alex Pettyfer) he tricks into going onstage because...well…I don’t know why.
Sister doesn’t like Mike from jump. Yet throughout the rest of the movie he teases her into going places and doing things with him even though most of the time she looks at him as if he’s been dipped in doo-doo.
In fact, that seems to be the only expression she has ‘til all of a sudden at the very end, she leaps across the table to plant a big ol’ soul kiss on Mike. Makes you wonder where that girl’s been hiding the whole time.
If she’d been that animated throughout, we might believe he’s just given up all that fun and money to stay in Tampa instead of moving to a bigger and better playground in Miami. I think we’re supposed to see her as the “good” girl he can’t have ‘til he gives up that awful strip club gig, the way he also can’t have his dream career—designing rather "odd" furniture—until he does same. Only she's a dedicated nine-to-five type--and something of an underachiever herself--who doesn't quite cut it as The Big Prize he gives it up for. Or to. Or...whatever.
In another weak subplot, young doofus brother Adam predictably dives right into the seamy, drug-infested side of the male stripper world, and gets himself in trouble with some drug thugs…and, as they say in screenwriting classes, "complications ensue." Complications Mike solves ‘way too quickly by immedidately giving up a hard-earned nest egg to save the doofus from The Bad Guys.
A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do, no question. But…I wish he’d at least had to think about it or…wander around the streets all conflicted for a while or something before he did it.
I think that’s the problem I had with this movie in sum. I knew what everyone was going to do... and they just sorta did it. And they did it so fast that the tension abated before I really believed there was any. One beat down is not a compelling conflict, especially when one of the guys involved in said beat down is a big lovable Hispanic dj (Gabriel Iglesias) who keeps apologizing. And when the problem is solved, not so magically, by Mike.
So…it’s a near miss—and a whole lotta people won’t even notice. It reminded me, a little bit, of Boogie Nights, where escaping to a "normal" life, and maybe having your own little audio equipment store, was the brass ring.
It also reminded me a little bit of Saturday Night Fever, when Tony, also a lovable hunk, is forced to hang up his boogie shoes and enter a more important contest: the quest for meaning and real manhood in The Big City.
Tatum’s Mike isn’t that pitiful. Or that dumb or naïve or…whatever Tony Manero was. Mike is a lovable, self-effacing hunk that any woman would love to meet and “make over.”
And let us not forget Matthew McConaughey, who is predictably good at being all charm and smarm—he gave me some of my best belly laughs, that man. It’s as if he spent all those shirtless years on the beach in preparation for this part. And he plays the hell out of it.
It’s worth the price of admission to watch Tatum shake that moneymaker, and McConaughey go ‘way over the top as a lovable rogue who knows exactly who he is and why he loves it.
I think Soderbergh knew that, too—maybe so well that he ran it down a little too fast, without enough “furious.” It’s a nice little “slice of life,” and maybe he was going for just that kind of reality break.
But you can’t put all that power up there onstage, make it look like the best job, ever... and then have him quit without a compelling "counter argument." Or a better woman waiting in the wings.
It took the audience I watched it with a few long, silent minutes to realize the movie had really ended. And then the teenie babies sat there a few minutes more trying to figure out what had just happened.
I was kinda glad they couldn’t just gush their way out to the parking lot and stand around doing the “replay” scene-by-scene. But…I’m older than that. And a little wiser.
And I wanted more, too.