Magic Mike (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Magic Mike (2012)

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Color is an extremely important in the films of Steven Soderbergh: washed out, sharp contrasts, black and white, whatever. His films are set in a world where the colors obey the whims of the plot, and are pivotal towards understanding the film. The color green is extremely important in Magic Mike because it's what makes the world go round.

I'm talking money, people! Sweet gobs of cash to cover my naked ass in!

Or, uh, their naked asses in. It's a movie about male strippers, and it is a veritable buffet of buttocks. But that's okay; as mature adults, if you can't watch a bunch of men undulate on stage, well, you're probably not much of a mature adult.

Musclebound Channing Tatum stars as musclebound Mike. For those who need to know this, we see Tatum's naked buttocks less than a minute into the picture; if that is all it takes to get you into the theater, this is your signal to start your proverbial (proverbial!) engines. The ladies in the row behind me had already gotten their money's worth.

Dammit, he looks even cuter in glasses!

For the rest of us, there's still a cornucopia of proverbial finer points (proverbial!) to make Magic Mike far deeper and more fun than any movie we've gotten in ages about 1) stripping, 2) dancing, 3) the economy, and 4) Channing Tatum.

You see, Mike has a dream. He wants to sit on the beach and design custom furniture. The problem is that Mike wants to do this while having it all-- a small measure of celebrity, a cadre of women at his disposal including a sexy swinger (Olivia Munn), big new cars, and a beautiful house on the gulf. He's living the ultimate male dream, but doesn't want to let go to pursue his own.

It's made all the tougher when he begins a friendship with Adam (Alex Pettyfer) whom he inducts into the world of male stripping. Adam instantly takes a liking to the lifestyle, from the throngs of appreciative women to the freedom of good booze and unlimited sex.

Drugs pop up, too, and it's to director Soderbergh's credit that they slither their way into the film slowly but seductively, eventually lowering Adam's defenses and turning him into a bit of a monster. This is a disservice to Mike, who's so obsessed with both keeping up appearances and flirting with Adam's sister, Brooke (Cody Horn), that he's lost track of his protege and begun to spiral into a darker area himself.

All she wants is a little bit of magic.

There's a thesis inĀ Magic MikeĀ that isn't hard to source out, but goes deeper the more it's explored. It's inherently about the metaphorical dream deferred-- that aching to get past adolescence and move on to creative and financial freedom. However, it's also about having enough courage to separate what you really want from what you think you do, and the problems that can lead to.

This approach is very similar to Soderbergh's previous film, The Girlfriend Experience. That film, about a woman named Chelsea (Sasha Grey) who provided 'services' to higher end clients, mostly bankers who were on the outs after the '08 Financial Crisis. That film trotted on similar grounds of how our bodies and minds can separate, and how our desires may cause conflicts between the two.

However, while Girlfriend Experience was Soderbergh at the height of his clinical dissection phase, he's come relatively closer to making a more alive and fun film. Most of the daytime scenes are filmed in a disparate yellow, directly contrasting the bring colors and energetic night world that ensconces the strip club where Mike and Adam ply their trade.

(Side Note: They're overseen there by the as-always charm monster of Matthew McConaughey, playing a psychopathic version of my blogging cohort Andrew Hathaway. Both of these men spend a great deal of time shirtless, playing the guitar, and snaking their way into the heart of America. Beware!)

Beware those hot abs!

What makes Magic Mike a touch better than Girlfriend Experience has to be the sense of fun and mischief that permeates Mike. Channing Tatum, who was completely off my radar before his excellent supporting work in Haywire a few months ago, and here he turns in performance that doesn't push his range, but plays with it and demonstrates how much fun there is lurking under that admittedly impressive body and block of a head.

Soderbergh takes a rote story and puts his stamp on it, but let's it breathe with a lot of good performances and a mixture of solid drama and sweetness. He's on a hell of a roll right now after this, Haywire, and Contagion, and I can't wait to see what he does next, whatever shade of color it may be.

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Posted by Danny

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