Strippers have feelings too – that’s the depth director Steven Soderbergh tries to give his oiled up cast in ‘Magic Mike’. The crotch fireworks from the dance sequences are huge but once they settle the plot is as thin as a piece of material going up a male exotic dancer’s backside.
Mike (Channing Tatum) is a male stripper who has just turned 30 and is ready to move on from the stage and become an entrepreneur. While working casually as a builder for extra cash, Mike meets Adam (Alex Pettyfer) and introduces him to stripping.
The world of male stripping is dissected by Soderbergh with the aid of Tatum who provided real life insights based on his stripping experiences that Reid Carolin turned into a screenplay. Inside the walls of the “all male dance revue” is where Soderbergh makes his mark with big stage performances constructed to highlight the fantastical product the men are selling to women. We’re so used to seeing female strippers in films and Soderberg makes the clear point of the difference between the intention of male and female strip clubs. When a man visits a strip club to see female dancers it’s all about “getting off” while for women it’s all about fun, personified by outlandish stage acts and level of dry humping the paying female audience members willingly subject themselves to.
Tatum adds a few comedic touches to his performance and Pettyfer’s quiet arrogance and bad attitude make for a few amusing moments but they never transition well into the drama. Matthew McConaughey charms his way through the film with a performance that’s akin to Johnny Depp’s scene stealing in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’.
Once most of the easily removable Velcro pants have been thrown to the side in ‘Magic Mike’, the film takes a serious turn that pulls out a few clichés involving drugs and stand over men. The vibe is ‘it’s all enjoyable until someone gets hurt’ but these developments are just masking the films absent plot. The story is reliant on Mike’s gradual realisation to move on with his life that is painstakingly extracted via a love interest played by Cody Horn. There is some contrast with the rise of Adam within the stripping brotherhood but the writing is on the wall from the minute Mike begins to want more from his life.
Despite Soderbergh’s expert touch, ‘Magic Mike’ is a lightweight drama that doesn’t dig deep enough into the implications of the stripping lifestyle. For those too scared to step inside a real strip club it might be the perfect mix of muscle and baby oil but nothing more.
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‘Magic Mike’ is released:
29 June 2012 US
11 July 2012 UK
26 July 2012 Australia