Friday, 13 July 2012

Magic Mike

****
As Britain is pelted with heavy rain what better reason to go and see a film set in sun-drenched Florida in which, erm… lots of guys get their kit off. Inspired by lead man and producer Channing Tatum’s experience as a 19-year-old stripper in said Florida, he plays stage-monikered Magic Mike.

The masterstroke is that Mike is not the newcomer - that comes in the shape of supporting role Adam (Alex Pettyfer), a green teen overwhelmed by a life of thongs and baby oil. This shrewdly avoids the hackneyed, rags-to-riches fairytale seen many times before, from the sublime (Boogie Nights) to the ridiculous (Showgirls). Mike himself is thirty, an established stripper and smart entrepreneur. He mentors Adam and they embark on a rollercoaster of sex and drugs that segues seamlessly in and out of the job. Their manager Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), who also strips, is another ten years older. We basically see the full age spectrum of male stripperdom. Matthew McConaughey is given ample opportunity to take more than just his shirt off and, no surprises there, but he’s very good at it.

It was never going to be the biggest stretch for Tatum but the part still requires acting and he makes for a likeable lead. With the right casting and confident direction - as proved in 21 Jump Street - he is capable of a star performance. He achieves nice chemistry with Cody Horn and truly shines on stage, busting insane moves as he peels off layers of clothing. The stripping scenes are priceless. Director Steven Soderbergh handles them with a perfectly pitched level of humour and excitement. Where something absurd like Flashdance – which upped the ante for cinematic effect - was grounded in no reality at all, this feels pretty authentic. These set pieces are bombastic and outrageous but they do feel believable.

The film in general is a lot of fun. It has an alluring energy and not just in the stripping scenes. (Those do indeed have tremendous zip and erm… bounce.) The story is a little slight but that kind of suits the subject matter. It’s all about the surface: less of what’s under the skin and more about the well, skin. Soderbergh also manages some stunning visual flourish. What could have been a damp squib in another director’s hands is brought to dazzling life, and this directorial pizzazz makes me increasingly troubled by the director’s threatened retirement.

Magic Mike is that rare beast – a film that will thoroughly appeal to both sexes. (And it’s not the sole reason for this but, for your information, it has plenty of eye candy for everyone.) Recommended to anyone old enough.


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