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FLICKS ON FRIDAY: MAGIC MIKE

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

Starring: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Matthew McConaughey, Cody Horn, Olivia Munn, Joe Manganiello, Kevin Nash, Matt Bomer

In cinemas now.

Movies about female strippers, such as Showgirls and Striptease, traditionally haven’t done that well on the big screen as conservatives and feminists scream exploitation and vilify moviemakers for daring to tackle this subject matter on the big screen. Of course it doesn’t help that neither of those movies was especially engaging, but it still doesn’t excuse the fact that no one has been protesting over male exploitation in this offering.

And believe me the cast of this drama are fully exploited with pretty much nothing (and I do mean nothing) left to the imagination. Of course Channing Tatum is more than used to getting his kit off for screaming women since that was how he paid the bills pre-fame – indeed this film is actually based on his experiences. However, the other actors took no such career path and at times it really shows – particularly in the group dance scenes. They all perform competently but without the polish that comes from night after night of dancing the same routines in front of drunken horny women. All, that is, except McConaughey, who is surprisingly comfortable in the role and seems to be playing an enhanced version of himself – and really having fun with it. His solo strip scene is one of the funniest in the movie and displays a confidence that would be lacking in many actors in this role.

The story sees Adam (Pettyfer), a slacker who got kicked out of college, move to Tampa to stay with his sister. With few prospects he tries to get work as a roofer where he meets Mike (Tatum). When Mike takes him under his wing and introduces him to the world of the male dance revue in a club called Xquisite, Adam feels he has finally found his calling. Encouraged by the club owner Dallas (McConaughey) and the rest of the dancers, he finds himself thrust on stage to strip when one of the guys collapses backstage. Fuelled by adrenalin and the chance to have screaming women throw themselves at him he agrees to become part of the troupe, much to the chagrin of his sister Brooke (Horn) who makes Mike promise to look after him, while fighting her attraction to him. However when Adam gets sucked into the world of drug dealing and finds himself in debt to some serious heavies, Mike bails him out using his life savings which puts paid to his own dreams of opening a custom furniture business and leaving them both to question their shallow lifestyle.

Of course you should be under no illusion that the story here is anything other than padding to fill in the gaps between the stripping scenes. No one’s performance is especially strong in this movie, with Horn in particular failing to connect with the character of Adam’s responsible and worried sister. Despite the fact that True Blood’s Manganiello and White Collar’s Bomer already have a significant fan base, they are given little to do and this film rests solely on the shoulders of Tatum and Pettyfer. Neither is an especially good actor but that fact actually works here as there is no danger of either one of them upstaging the other.

Scenes where Tatum’s character dons glasses and a suit to approach a bank for a loan are laughable and every time it slips into more serious issues it quickly loses its momentum. Despite this, in the club scenes it shines, with Soderbergh perfectly capturing the excited frenzy experienced when a group of women hit a club like this. The dance routines are clever and the montage scenes are amusing, with one where Manganiello pulls his back while lifting up a fan especially hilarious.

This movie won’t be troubling the Oscars but it is sure to do big box office as people flock to see these big names getting their kit off for kicks and, ultimately, it has the sense of fun necessary to engage an audience in this respect. There are some funny lines and in the moments where it doesn’t take itself seriously it’s very watchable. However, the fact remains that if the roles were reversed and the strip troupe in this were female this movie would be vilified, as basically it is Showgirls but with boys!

 

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