Let's hear it for these boys: Magic Mike and Chariots of Fire
09:47 GMT, 13 July 2012
Magic Mike (15)
Verdict: The Half Monty
Before Hollywood tried to tell us
Channing Tatum was a movie star and stuck him in such extravaganzas as
G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra, he earned his money as a teenage stripper
in Tampa, Florida.
Now his early experiences have been dramatised by director Steven Soderbergh and writer Reid Carolin.
Some of Magic Mike is off-puttingly
sordid. The exotic dancing, which consists mainly of bare-chested
crotch-grabbing and pelvic thrusts, puts the abs into absurdity.
Magic Mike starring Channing Tatum as Magic Mike, Kevin Nash as Tarzan, Matt Bomer as Ken, Joe Manganiello as Big Dick Richie and Adam Rodriguez as Tito
And the more than faintly hypocritical
combination of salacious near-nudity and moralising is strongly
reminiscent of that all-time turkey Showgirls.
But Magic Mike is a mostly enjoyable picture, with a few big assets.
I do not refer to bulging G-strings or
bronzed buttocks — though these are plentiful. The principal plus is
Tatum himself, who showed a gift for comedy in 21 Jump Street and really
Though not the world’s deepest actor,
he has a slow-burning charm that makes Magic Mike a memorable hero. He’s
most impressive in the dance sequences but also mildly touching in the
scenes where he tries to break out of exotic dancing and carve out a
life as an entrepreneur.
His meeting with an obstructive bank manager will strike a chord with many in the current economic climate.
Another asset is Matthew McConaughey,
dynamic on stage and off as Dallas, the egotistical owner of the club
where Mike is the star dancer. McConaughey can look as if he’s on
auto-pilot in routine romcoms and often seems most interested in finding
excuses to take his shirt off.
However, in the right movie, such as last year’s The Lincoln Lawyer and now here, he is a powerful presence.
Dallas is an entertainingly menacing
bad guy — imagine the emcee in Cabaret with a Texas drawl and spray-tan.
It’s too bad the script doesn’t give him anything really nasty to do.
If it had, McConaughey could have easily been in the running for a best
supporting actor Oscar.
The strip-club sequences are a lot of
fun if you’re interested in the cheesy end of showbiz and the musical
numbers are cleverly staged, shot and edited. But where, you may well
ask, is the story to grip us and make us care
Well, that’s the problem. There isn’t
one. Essentially, the plot’s about a naive, directionless young slacker
called Adam (Britain’s Alex Pettyfer) who Mike takes under his wing. In
no time, a star in a G-string is born.
But then Adam is seduced into the
sordid side of the club — drugs, alcohol and casual sex — much to the
disapproval of his judgmental sister Brooke (newcomer Cody Horn) to
whom, of course, Mike is attracted.
Will decent old Mike or self-destructive Adam halt the downward spiral of their hedonistic lifestyles
Will Mike hook up with Brooke And will Mike ever make his long- desired change into a designer of astonishingly ugly furniture
Pettyfer is adequate as Adam, and
livelier than in previous films, but his character is too undeveloped to
make us worry about what will happen to him. He’s not a patch on Jon
Voight’s vulnerable Joe Buck in Midnight Cowboy or John Travolta’s
cocky Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever.
The love story doesn’t work because
Tatum can’t do besotted and Ms Horn is a flat, inexpressive actress who
bears a disturbing resemblance to Arnold Schwarz-enegger in drag.
This film isn’t nearly as sexy as it
thinks it is either and offers an even more sanitised view of the
stripping profession than Boogie Nights did of hardcore porn.
Soderbergh manages the difficult trick
of being both voyeuristic and coy — there’s no full-frontal nudity —
and tries so hard to be non- judgmental that the late descent into
cautionary finger-wagging seems tacked on and insincere.
Another disappointment is that the
film is relentlessly shallow. There’s not even an attempt to investigate
the double standard that surrounds stripping.
Why do men who do it tend to be
regarded as fun-loving party guys, while women are viewed with
puritanical disdain, bordering on contempt
The part that rings true is the
strip-club milieu. In most of Soderbergh’s best films, such as Traffic,
Erin Brockovich and The Informant, he gets inside a hidden world and
shoots it with an interesting mixture of documentary candour and
Magic Mike is a weird combination of
money-grubbing Hollywood voyeurism and a much artier, indie film-making
sensibility. It doesn’t entirely convince, but it’s watchable.
Hen parties will adore it.