Abuse and exploitation of women - greediness, envy and selfishness - drug and alcohol abuse - the emasculation of men. If this is what you are looking for in entertainment, then Magic Mike will definitely satisfy your demand and deliver what it promises.
The film is not only dull and boring, but loaded with shoddy performances that make D-grade male strippers look like Oscar winners and definitely gets the prize for one of the worst films of the year.
If you want to present a unique and exceptional view into the world of male stripping, at least begin with a story and a script that have merit and meaning.
The film revolves around Mike (Channing Tatum), a man of many talents and loads of charm, who spends his days pursuing the American Dream from as many angles as he can handle: from roofing houses and detailing cars to designing furniture from his Tampa beach condo, and at night he is the hot headliner in an all-male revue at Club Xquisite owned by Dallas (Matthew McConaughey). Seeing potential in a guy he calls the Kid (Alex Pettyfer), Mike takes the 19-year-old under his wing and schools him in the fine arts of dancing, partying, picking up women and making easy money.
Overblown and hammy performance
Tatum does his best to rise to the occasion as star and co-producer, but he is so outnumbered by McConaughey's overblown and hammy performance, that he does what he does best, smile and be his charming self.
Tatum's character is a cocky and hard core stripper who suddenly grows a soul when Cupid's arrow strikes what seems to be left of his heart as he abuses women for his own contentment and nothing else; it's their worship of him that turns him into a godly and egotistical manipulator.
The poor character development can only be contributed to the fact that the idea is very loosely sparked by Channing's own experiences as a stripper when he was 19 years old and during the writing process, scriptwriter and Tatum's producing partner Reid Carolin (who also produced Tatum's Stop Loss and Ten Year) turned fact into an absurd fictional reality that is appalling; filled with stereotypes with no depth or meaning and little integrity.
Emotional abuse, suffered by self-deprivation and the physical abuse of drugs, alcohol and people form the core of the shallow characters in Magic Mike.
A redeeming factor
One of the only redeeming factors of the film is Pettyfer, who delivers an impressive performance, although it feels as if he is completely in another movie, almost like Alice lost in Wonderland and a rabbit caught in headlights.
The least one could ask for in Magic Mike, particularly looking at the title and subject matter, is that it should be sexy.
Director Stephen Soderbergh, who started his career trying to be a provocative filmmaker with films like Sex, Lies and Videotape and the dismal Full Frontal, is a filmmaker who enjoys using his toys and focuses on context rather than content; he desperately tries to infuse sexy with a serious and contemplative "real-life" approach.
The so-called "seriously choreographed" dance routines are nothing but glorified aerobics, with the men pumping their crotches in cheap and unappealing degradation.
Nasty and cheap exhibitionism
Sexy must sizzle and not deflate sensuality or insult the intelligence of the audience. Sexy embodies eroticism and sensuality, not nasty and cheap exhibitionism; to exhibit a gorgeous body shamefully is not only strutting around like a plucked peacock, but skilfully and artfully using one's attributes (see how the dancers in the show Burn the Floor put the sizzle into sexy). If you feel like watching a clever and amusing film about male stripping, spare a trip to the movies and re-watch The Full Monty; a thoughtful and meaningful glimpse into the trials and tribulations of male stripping.
And, although it does not focus on male stripping, re-watch the musical Gypsy, based on the real-life story of Gypsy Rose Lee, an American burlesque entertainer famous for her striptease act; she put the "tease" in "striptease" and her innovations were an almost casual strip style compared to the herky-jerky styles of most burlesque strippers. This was also brought across in the recent film Burlesque.
Ego and self-esteem do not lie in pumping yourself up like a mad dog, thumping your chest and slapping your mates like cavemen, and howling at the moon.
Yes, perhaps the intent of Magic Mike might be harmless comedy that spoofs the world of male stripping, but it sadly fall in-between not knowing what it wants to say and taking itself way too seriously. If there is one message that Magic Mike most definitely succeeds in bringing across, is that money corrupts - and in a world in which material wealth downgrades humanity, Magic Mike is the perfect representative for depravity.
Behind the scenes
The idea of making a movie set in the world of male strippers had been simmering with Channing Tatum for a long time. Having once been a part of that world, he felt it had real cinematic potential to be fun, unique, entertaining and more than a little revealing. But it was a conversation he had with Steven Soderbergh that finally put "Magic Mike" on its path to the big screen.
Tatum, who stars in the title role and is also a producer on the film, recalled: "I mentioned that I'd worked as a stripper for eight months when I was 18 and 19 years old. I've always thought about doing a story about that life because whenever the subject comes up, guys always want to know about it. How'd you get into it? What was it like? How much money did you make? Steven said: "'You should do it. Absolutely. You should write it and I'll direct it.'"
"I thought it was one of the best ideas I'd ever heard for a movie," said Soderbergh. "It's sexy, funny and crazy, and a view into an interesting, exclusive environment most people never experience."
Added producer Gregory Jacob: "We both felt it was something we hadn't seen in a movie before. And Channing's approach was fearless."
Soderbergh, Jacobs and producer Nick Wechsler joined Tatum and his producing partner Reid Carolin for a series of lively brainstorming sessions that formed the basis and inspiration for Carolin's final script. Rather than actual events, Tatum said: "It was the atmosphere and energy of it I wanted to capture, and that feeling of being at a time in your life when you're trying things out and up for anything. You might have a plan for the future, but for now it's about that next pay cheque, that next party, and just having a good time."
Daniel Dercksen has been a film and theatre journalist in South Africa the past 30 years and as a trainer and educator has presented regular workshops in scriptwriting and creative writing during the past 17 years.
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