Sunday, July 1, 2012

Magic Mike's might Dance Magic, but he is no Bowie.

I saw my baby, 
trying hard as babe could try 
What could I do? 
My baby's fun had gone 
And left my baby blue 
Nobody knew 

Replace "baby" by Channing Tatum in the above lyrics, and you have my feelings after leaving Magic Mike. Why the Labyrinth allusion? No reason, only that I can't seem to be able to say the words Magic Mike without intoning the "Dance Magic" melody. That, and I thought David Bowie's crotch would fit right in with all the other boys' below. This, my friends, is my review of Magic Mike. Minor spoilers therein, but nothing about the end or the major plot twists. 

When the hell does he sleep, then?

You know how often critics (me included) will bash a movie for being all style, no substance? Well, Magic Mike is the seldom seen opposite of that: all substance, no style. For a fictional movie about the world of male strippers, it as dry as an academic essay on the subject. This surprises me - after all, Steven Soderbergh is the director behind Ocean's Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen, some of the most fun heist movies ever done. And Eleven is one of those few remakes that manage to be better than the original. But in recent years, Soderbergh seems to prefer a more realistic, subtle style. Which worked wonders for the Contagion, worked okay for Haywire, but doesn't work at all for this movie.

Peacock. Sorry, nothing else comes to mind but Peacock.
And that is really a shame, because Magic Mike had potential. The script is of superior quality. The movie is overlong, but I think this is not the fault of the script - if the dance numbers had been mind-blowing, the pacing would have been perfect.  Middling as they were, they lengthened the movie unnecessarily. The acting is great. Channing Tattum is really better actor then he first appears to be, and he proves it again here. Alex Pettyfer is good in the role of Mike's new recruit and protégé. This is a commonly used narrative device - Ismael to Captain Ahab, Nick Carraway to Jay Gatsby, Watson to Holmes, but it is well- used here. The female lead, Cody Horn, who is an unknown to me, has that girl-next-door charm that perfectly complements and contrasts Tatum's Prom King looks. And Matthew McConaughey is having great fun, and it shows. But the show never really gets off the ground. During the dance numbers, the camera is never close enough or dynamic enough and the music is never loud enough to pull you in. If Magic Mike has the Mike part down, it lacks in Magic. 

Let me put it this way - in one scene, Brooke (Cody Horn)  is at standing alone at back of the bar, watching her young brother (Alex Pettyfer) perform with a cold eye. Well, all throughout in the movie I felt I was next to her at the back of the bar far, from the stage,  instead of next to Magic Mike on the stage or just below the stage, waiting for him to pull me up on it and make me his next dance-pole. Yes, I am a guy, and straight as they come (except for Daniel Craig,) but still, if the movie could have made me feel that, it would have been perfect. And it had the script and the cast to achieve that.  

But Soderberg was not up to the task. This movie would have been better with a director who can bring on the bombast. Someone like Rob Marshall or Bahz Luhrman. Yes, I get that this movie was more interested with exploring what went on behind the scenes, behind the glamour and the body oil. But exploring the darker side of something is not really meaningful if the bright side is only slightly glossy. 

Should you see Magic Mike? Depends - if all you want is beefcake, the movie does keep on giving on that count, and it is certainly cheaper than going to an upper end strip joint like the one portrayed in the movie, (However, this movie is strictly R - a lot of asses, a lot of bare chests, boners seen through tight strings, a pair of breasts or two, but no honest-to-goodness cocks.) But if what you want is a mix of showy spectacle and interesting drama, you better wait until it is on DVD. Unless you're on a date. As a date movie, Magic Mike is a very good choice.

Just make sure you dress better than him.

Oh, and one last thing - while their dance version of It's Raining Men is nowhere as good as the Weather Girls' original (how can it ever be?,) that soundtrack is bitching. I need it. 

Oh God, and now I wanna listen to It's Raining Men nonstop. Curse You, Magic Mike!

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