This blog posting comes from my friend over at Twenty Thousand Roads, who introduced me to the outrageous humor of Kenny Powers… check out my blog here. As a payback for putting Can on my husband’s Spotify playlist and as a sort of dare, I suggested Joey take his “very pregnant” (I’m quoting him here…) girlfriend to see Magic Mike (a movie I can’t believe he beat me to seeing). This is his very funny review of the film, which unexpectedly also turned into a bemoaning of the sexual oppression that men face. I wasn’t aware that men felt so sexually oppressed, given the near constant exposure of women and their bodies in an unrealistic and sexualized manner, but now I know. Thanks, man.
Magic Mike, or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Man-Ass
Imagine a scenario: the hottest new movie in the land stars Selma Hayek as an aging but still hot leader of a troupe of strippers, two of whom are played by interchangeable Hollywood starlets like Megan Fox and some chick who got famous for snorting lines off of Lindsay Lohan’s breasts. When this little movie—let’s call it Destinee’s Destiny—opens, groups of middle-aged men cram the theaters, hooting and hollering at the screen every time Selma slides out of her G-string. What a bunch of creepy old perverts, you’d think, and you’d be right. But if you flip the genders, this describes the vibe surrounding Magic Mike, Steven Soderbergh’s new ode to man-ass.
When I agreed to review this movie, I didn’t realize what a phenomenon it was going to be. I lucked out on missing the opening night because the movie sold out faster than twenty-dollar dvd players on Black Friday. I thought I’d lucked out by missing what would essentially be a bridal shower gone bad, but it turned out the sell outs lasted all weekend. The first Sunday afternoon showing was also nearly sold out, packed to the rafters with groups of women ranging from sorority girls to grandmothes, all tanked up on church and Appletinis from Outback. The estrogen was so thick that you could cut it with a knife, and the atmosphere so electric that I actually got heckled walking into the theater. “Didn’t nobody tell you this was chick movie?” a woman asked as we walked by, looking for seats. Luckily, I’d gone to the movie with my lovely, very pregnant girlfriend, who was there to fend off the ladies in case things got out of hand.
Before I start my review, let me say this: I get it. Every fucking movie ever made is absurdly full of gratuitous T & A, even the ones with supposedly strong female characters. We live in a culture saturated with images of women as sex objects, so this movie is only turnabout as fair play, blah, blah, blah. Still, ladies, you need to have a little self – control. Jesus. The sight of Matthew McConaughey’s oiled-up bare ass taking up the entire screen speaks for itself. You don’t have to praise it out loud like you’re at some kind of Pentecostal church service for sinners. So let’s just calm down and forget about the half-naked men (okay, point granted: if this was a film about female strippers they’d be full-frontally buck-ass naked for most of the movie) and focus on the merits of Magic Mike as cinema.
Going into the movie, I thought that there were two ways it might go. Either it would be a dark character study of a protagonist caught up in a self-destructive but oddly alluring lifestyle, a la The Wrestler or Boogie Nights, or, god forbid, it could be a thinly disguised romantic comedy with six-pack abs and taut, hairless butt cheeks as window dressing. It turns out that Magic Mike splits those two possibilities pretty much straight down the middle. It’s not a bad strategy, but the result is a movie that often feels like it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. It seems afraid to follow its characters down to the depths that it only hints at, and the obligatory love story seems tacked-on.
For all its booty-shaking and marketing aimed at horny housewives, Magic Mikeis really a bromance at heart. It follows Mike, played competently by Channing Tatum, whose moves make it clear that he’s worn a glittery thong or two in his day, and his new buddy Ryan (Alex Pettyfer). Mike is a veteran stripper and budding entrepreneur, and Ryan is a young fuck-up who bumbles into the stripping business and idolizes Mike. The promiscuous (the movie opens amid the morning-aftermath of a threesome) and drug-fueled lifestyle to which Mike has been hardened proves too much for Ryan, who threatens to flame out in a sort of male-strippers-gone-wild descent to rock bottom. Ryan’s sister Brooke, played by Cody Horn, who probably got the call because the producers wanted somebody pretty but not prettier than the boys, tries to shield him from the stripper life, and predictably Mike falls for her, secretly desiring the escape from the lifestyle that she represents. Though it seems to shy away from what it wants to be, the movie manages to be genuinely compelling in spots, and though it’s not The Wrestler, it’s certainly not Showgirls either.
None of that seemed to matter to the women in the theater, because if Magic Mike doesn’t exactly know what it wants to be, it certainly does know that it wants to take its pants off and hump the stage. And it does. A lot. The Cock Rocking Kings of Tampa—who never actually show their cocks, alas—spend plenty of time on stage. Led by Matthew McConaughey who seems to approach the role as a sort of self-parody, the mostly-naked dance routines that bring women to the theater in droves actually serve to build the characters and thankfully aren’t the actual centerpiece of the movie. I might be alone in this sentiment, however. One woman sitting a few rows behind me spoke to the screen during one of the movie’s breaks from ass-shaking. “Stop talking so much and shake your thang, baby,” she said to Mike.