Friday, July 20, 2012

Magic Mike

So, why would a couple of strapping, heterosexual guys, a father and son, no less, go see a movie about male strippers? Wrong question. The right question is why wouldn't a couple of strapping, heterosexual guys go see a movie about male strippers?

Particularly when directed by Steven Soderbergh, late of Contagion and HaywireSoderbergh is kind of the honey badger of film directors. He doesn't seem to give a, em, hoot and just does what he wants. So, if he directed a movie about male strippers, there's probably more here than just glistening pecs. 

And this is true. This is kind of a fun movie, and not a chick flick at all. In fact, this is a movie that objectifies women way more than it does men. (Is that ironic? I'm not sure. Somebody call Alanis.) It is amazingly sleazy, too, and not entirely in a good way.

The story? In the words of Speaker Pelosi: Are you serious? OK, the plot is, basically, the same plot of every '30s musical, where the young ingenue comes to The City to be discovered, and finds herself understudy to The Star, only to be lured into a life of debauchery, and to maybe or maybe not get her big break when The Star is killed by drug dealers...wait, I'm getting off track.

Anyway, it's that plot, only instead of a female singer/dancer/actress, it's a male stripper. And instead of "playing the Palace", the troupe is trying to get to Miami.

It was the pictures that got small, as someone said.

Also, this is more about the established Star, the pecular (see what I did there?) Magic Mike, rather than the Ingenue, who's been on the exciting, whirlwind life of debauchery and is feeling a little over-the-hill at 30. (I guess some dudes, like the 50-year-old "Tarzan" character are destined to be strippers till they're using walkers.)

Mike's a guy with a lot of marginally successful, non-stripping, gigs but his heart is in furniture crafting. He's saved a few bucks and is trying to leverage that into a bank loan to get it started. Tragically, he has poor credit, and his multiple ventures make him look rather flaky. He's also dopey enough to think piling out cash onto a banker's desk is going to give him more credibility.

One has to overlook the silliness here. I guess we can assume that Mike pissed away his 20s and blew all his cash, because he only has about $15K, even though he's a single dude who's got to be pulling down at least $50K a year, all cash. So that aspect of the story is not explained.

We also have to believe he's tired of the lifestyle, and really yearns to be taken seriously by his grad-student sorta girlfriend he shares women with (Olivia Munn). Or maybe by the square-jawed flat-chested-so-you-know-she's-not-a-bimbo sister (Cody Horn) as the ingenue who manages to resist his charms.

Which, let's be honest, are considerable. Channing Tatum, as Magic Mike, looks like Brad Pitt, if only Brad Pitt had taken working out more seriously. And I think he's probably a better actor, too. He's almost certainly a better dancer. He was so good, I forgot it was him, and wondered where they found this male stripper who could act.

Which, given Tatum's history as a stripper, upon which this story is loosely based, is really what happened.

So, yeah, this is a sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll fun-time romp, that actually goes out of its way to not glamorize the lifestyle, and shows that, even in a movie about male strippers, the men are objectifying women like crazy.

I did feel like this whole male stripper thing is just fundamentally wrong. I'm not into the female stripping thing, particularly, either, but there are certain truths with men. Like, a lot of them can't get a woman (any woman) without paying. Men know that it's sleazy and something to hide. On some level, a man going to strip club represents a failure on his part. The Game guys scoff at them.

Women don't have any of that. A woman can pretty much always get some poor sap interested. And where men huddle in the shadows, women hoot and holler and get involved in the routines in a way that would get any man arrested. It's empowering for a woman to let a stripper pretend-ravage her on a stage.

Anyway, it's not like you can blame Magic Mike for that. But it is really gross. And it feels like the end of Western Civilization.

Soderbergh keeps the proceedings natural (which some people mistake for bad acting), inserts a lot of sly humor. Matthew McConaughey—well, he looks pretty ragged for a 42-year-old, to me, but he's definitely cut. And mostly naked, if that's your sort of thing.

If the sleaziness and the collapse of the Western World doesn't bother you, it's a fun little flick.


The Boy said, "They're God-damned American heroes."

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