Director: Steven Soderbergh
Rating: *** (3.0 out of 5)
While Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich, Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven) was filming action flick Haywire in 2011, he had a chat with Channing Tatum, one of the supporting actors on the set. Tatum, a dancer by trade, told Soderbergh about his sordid past as a male stripper in Florida and asked if the Oscar-winning director would be interested in bringing his story to the big screen. Soderbergh said “why not” and Tatum ended up starring and co-producing Magic Mike, a low-budget movie that would become one of the biggest movie events this year.
|Magic Mike by Steven Soderbergh
Magic Mike follows the life of 30-year-old Mike Lane who toils as a construction worker by day and takes his clothes off in front of screaming women by night. He befriends Adam, a 19-year-old college drop-out who needs cash and direction in life. Mike takes “The Kid” under his wing and throws him into the underworld of dancing poles and G-strings. It is fun and games until all that humping and grinding on stage eventually gives way to drugs, violence and betrayal. In the end, the hero saves the day and gets the girl. Sticking to the safe Hollywood formula, Magic Mike has all the trappings of a tedious TV movie. Character development – or the lack thereof – is the movie’s biggest problem. Take Adam’s love interest Nora (played by little known Riley Keough) for example. The enigmatic girl with a pet pig has the potential of carrying an interesting subplot but the character falls off the screen after a couple of scenes. Overall, the film is rote and even boring at times. It ends so abruptly that the only cue for the audience to get up and leave is the end credits.
|He makes them girls scream
The acting in Magic Mike is uneven. Tatum is a much better dancer than he is an actor. Just like Mark Wahlberg, he can’t seem to say his lines without swinging his arms like a primate. But the absolute worst is Cody Horn, who plays Adam’s sister Brooke and the object of Mike’s affection. The unphotogenic Horn looks more a 16-year-old Kmart cashier -- no offense to Kmart cashiers -- than the gritty sister who steals the hero's heart. Throughout the movie, Brooke is either giggling like a tenth grader or pouting like, well, a tenth grader. But moviegoers are already used to this. Every time we see a miscast actress, such as Sofia Coppola in Godfather III or Kate Beckinsale in Total Recall, chances are she is either the director's daughter or wife. In Cody Horn’s case, her father happens to be Alan Horn, chairman of Walt Disney Studios and former president of Warner Brothers. Because of her lack of charisma and stage presence, the romance that is the backbone of the entire movie falls apart.
|Where is the love?
But all is not lost. If Magic Mike has a saving grace, it would be Matthew McConaughey, who delivers the best performance in his career to date playing the narcissistic and cutthroat strip club impresario Dallas. McConaughey looks and sounds the part, and gives authenticity to an otherwise implausible portrayal of the male stripper underworld. He deserves an Oscar nomination.
Magic Mike is a comedy-drama about those who live on the fringes of society and their version of the American Dream. But it lacks the edginess and realism that the subject matter demands. Knowing that a movie starring a half dozen beefcakes would turn off the male audiences, Soderbergh packs in loads of female nudity and shies away from the subject of homosexuality. It appears to be the right move. The film that cost only US$7 million to make has grossed over US$150 million worldwide. He is certainly glad he had that chat with Tatum a year ago.
|McConaughey steals the show