Magic Mike, to me, fell flat. Predictable and boring, it felt like a rehash of those dance movies we’re bombarded by yearly. I just recently saw sex, lies, and videotape, also by Steven Soderbergh, which won the Palme d’Or during the 1989 Cannes Film Festival, and enjoyed it a lot. Admittedly, he hasn’t really put out anything that caught my fancy as of late (except for Contagion, which I totally missed); but I have seen quite a few others of his filmography (King of the Hill, Erin Brockovich, the Ocean’s Trilogy, and Solaris) and generally liked them. I went into the theater knowing what Magic Mike was about, and I realize the audience it was marketed to; but the critics love Soderbergh, and I was curious to see how his alleged masterful film-making skills would lend themselves to such material.
I was expecting something close to what Paul Thomas Anderson did in Boogie Nights, seeing as both are about the sex industry from the point of view of a young male. Something raunchy, but glamorous. Something nonjudgmental, honest and human in its treatment. Something with a little comedy and violence to balance out the drama. Something fun and smart. Magic Mike, sadly, was not all of that.
Just like Step Up, the movie that launched Channing Tatum’s career as Hollywood leading man, this movie’s numerous dance/strip routines are meticulously choreographed, and ridiculously excessive. Like any strip club would spend all that money and go through all that trouble to give what its getting aid for.
The first half of the movie is all decadent fun, as Tatum’s character Magic Mike introduces to stripping and takes under his wing, Adam (Alex Pettyfer), a 19-year old he works construction with. Big surprise; when forced to take to the stage, the reluctant Adam turns out to be a natural at stripping! Throughout the first half, as one man after another’s bare ass is shown blown up on screen, I keep thinking Soderbergh’s out to get us yet; throwing a curve-ball just when you least suspect it.
Cinematography is excellent (Soderbergh shoots his own films as Peter Andrews). With interesting lens flares and framing choices spicing up the picture every now and then. I especially liked the kind-of slow-mo sequence with Mike and Adam tripped up on E at a club. Very art house.
The movie takes a dive halfway through, and becomes your typical cautionary tale against drugs and the sex industry. It basically turns on itself when it starts preaching to its viewer just how immoral what it indulgently depicted in its first half was. It fails to go deeper into the relationships of the strippers with each other and their clients, which would’ve been interesting.
I give this 2 out of 5.