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Film Review: Magic Mike

Chiselled abs and slick moves were not enough to impress Nathan Olivieri.

I doubt there will be another movie this year preened and cultivated for its target audience like Magic Mike. Almost toppling 50 Shades of Grey as the hot topic of conversation for women everywhere, it is not difficult to see why: chiselled, muscle-bound male leads are a draw card even when they’re not disrobing purely for the titillation of their female spectatorship. In all fairness, many reviewers have praised the ‘insightfulness’ and ‘soulfulness’ of the film, claiming there is a great deal beneath the film’s suitably buff exterior.

Entering with as much impartiality as I could summon, I settled down, prepared to give the film the most objective of treatments. Hence, it must be said objectively, that this is a terrible film; an excellent piece of objectification and voyeurism, yet appallingly made. With few redeeming features in sight, the film flounders: potential did exist to craft something grungier and more hard-hitting, but its superficial approach renders it little more than eye candy, with a wafer-thin subplot to hoist it up.

Lead eye-candy, the eponymous ‘Magic’ Mike (Channing Tatum), fronts a carefully constructed existence: labourer by day, male stripper by night. He is the centrepiece of the all-male revue ‘Xquisite’, managed by stripper-turned-guru, and resident eccentric, Dallas (Matthew McConaughey). The introduction of ‘The Kid’, Adam (Alex Pettyfer), fellow labourer and all-around layabout, sees Mike given a personal mentoring project, taking him under his wing and into a world of bronzed bodies and ‘Star-Spangled-Banner’ G-strings. Mike’s saving grace, however, proves to be Adam’s sister Brooke (Cody Horn), whose consistent scepticism burrows into our muscular lead’s heart, causing him to question his lifestyle.

The plot of the film is fairly irrelevant: instead of being the agent which propels the film forward, it almost seems like it’s simply there to justify why the film exists in the first place. The fact that our first glimpse of star Tatum, within the first minute of the film is of his bare behind is quite an apt summation of the merits of the film. There is little to the film other than its signatory strip scenes – although a great effort is made to pretend otherwise – and there is little more to the characters themselves other than good genes. Woven around these exhibitionist scenes are a number of subplots, though their fleetingness and lack of development make them resemble something more of pointless vignettes. It seems rushed and entirely haphazard. Director Steven Soderbergh, in a recent interview with FilmInk magazine, discussed how he pressured screenwriter Reid Carolin to churn out the script: “It was too good an idea to wait any longer. I thought someone else might steal it,” he remarked. This quote certainly epitomises a film so caught up in a novel idea that it subjected itself to a hasty and weak development.

Aside from having the barest of narratives to string it together, and get the audience from one strip sequence to the next, the film’s underdeveloped nature is most telling in the presentation of its characters. The film lacks any figure to latch onto as a figure of endearment. Each of the remaining members of the troupe are extraordinary caricatures, and hence are there for little more than cheap laughs; no fault of the actors, it must be said. Both Dallas and Adam are childish and self-involved in their own way, although McConaughey delivers a few chuckles, namely at the lack of dignity in his performance. This leaves Mike, and although Tatum executes his trademark swagger and gruffness, his character’s development does not seem genuine: it is more of an ‘on-off’ switch than a progression. It all begs the question, why do we care? I found myself struggling to answer it.

However, I was never to be the demographic for which this film was directed. The screening I attended was swamped with girls, whooping and cheering, so clearly the film strikes a chord with those it sets out to appeal to. Many have defended Magic Mike by claiming it is a film that needn’t be analysed too deeply; however, its misguided attempts to introduce something resembling a narrative tells a greater tale about a film that set out to tell a story, and failed. Greater care was needed to perfect a film such as this but clearly the marketing machine grew impatient before this could take place.

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