Friday 6 February 2015

Movie Review: Magic Mike (2012)

An excuse for quality gawking of the guilty kind, Magic Mike combines set-pieces of male strippers strutting their stuff with a bland script, and lands somewhere between an enjoyable night out and a tortuously unconvincing drama.

In Tampa, Florida, Michael "Magic Mike" Lane (Channing Tatum) is a popular stripper by night and an aspiring entrepreneur during the day, working a series of jobs to help finance the launch of his own furniture business. Mike works at a club owned by Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), a former stripper now focussing on the business and hoping to relocate the club to the more lucrative Miami market. Mike enjoys the company of friend-with-benefits Joanna (Olivia Munn), but at 30 years old he is getting old for stripping and feels the pressure to get on with his life.

At a construction site Mike meets the unemployed 19 year old Adam (Alex Pettyfer), invites him down to the club, and thrusts him on stage. Adam proves to be a decent stripper and joins the club as a regular performer known as "The Kid", much to the consternation of his sister Brooke (Cody Horn), a nurse. Mike starts to romantically pursue Brooke, and assures her that he will look after Adam's welfare. But the life of stripping, sex, and drugs does catch up with Adam, while Mike grows impatient with Dallas blocking his business ambitions, and Brooke wonders if Mike is a man worth pursuing.

Loosely inspired by a real-life episode in Tatum's life, Magic Mike is a relatively innocuous night of wild fun. The movie entertains without engaging, the showier elements leaving a mark and a smile, while the recycled drama and characters quickly slip into forgettable territory.

When the men are on the stage, bodies glistening and gyrating, the women in the audience whooping and hollering, and the music thumping, Magic Mike is at its best. Director Steven Soderbergh packs his movie with plenty of stage highlights, and although these scenes do little to advance the plot, they inject undeniable energy. Soderbergh steers clear of jerky cameras and micro-edits, allowing the dancing to flow with sensual fluidity and capturing the attraction of sexy but harmless revues.

Less convincing is the drama surrounding Mike and Adam. The story of the innocent newcomer thrust into the world of spotlights and sin is just too trite to resonate, while the push for romance between Mike and Brooke never gains traction. Worse of all is the contrived tension between Mike and Dallas, a barely developed simmering dispute having something to do with Mike seeking an equity stake while Dallas is not too eager to share his empire.

Matthew McConaughey stands out with the most magnetic performance, creating in Dallas the club puppet master, and displaying a sinewy athleticism to go along with an oily personality. Channing Tatum and Alex Pettyfer get by on looks and minimal acting talent, while Cody Horn contributes a welcome natural presence but sometimes veers towards the amateurish.

Mike is pure magic on the stage, but rather mundane off it.

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