Thursday, July 12, 2012

Not So Magical

One of the more nuanced moments of Magic Mike

I went to see Magic Mike.


My period didn’t spontaneously begin.

That is not to say that I would go out of my way to see it again (I wouldn’t), but I want to talk about it for a bit. I also want to talk about the looks I received when purchasing my ticket, the snickers I got from the hoard of teen girls in the audience (for a Rated R movie!) as I walked in to the theater, and the looks of amusement and/or the audible surprise from literally everyone I’ve told about my experience.

First, let’s talk about this movie… It wasn’t that great. Not because it was chock full of greased up, mostly naked dudes. I mean.. it absolutely is chock full of greased up, mostly naked dudes, but I feel like those greased up, mostly naked dudes are not why the movie isn’t great.

The movie wasn’t great because almost all of the characters are dicks (figurative ones… sheesh).

The dramatic arc is pretty weak. The 2 major conflicts are both telegraphed from miles away. (What? The girl who they identify ONLY as trouble actually IS trouble? You don’t fucking say.) Neither of the major conflicts are particularly concerning, because one of the main characters you are mostly supposed to dislike, and the other is better off anyway.

They try to establish the Channing Tatum character as this care-free playboy, jack of all trades, artist or whatever. Instead, he’s written as clingy. You never actually see him creating his art. You never see him being good at his other various jobs. They do their best to establish him as a dude getting his life together, but for all the money he supposedly makes in all of his jobs, his well-established nest-egg is pitifully small. Basically, the character you’re supposed to like the most for all of these reasons is really only likeable because he’s Channing Tatum.

The first love interest, played by Olivia Munn, is an amoral “free spirit” who starts off fairly likeable and gets to be a cartoon. The second love interest, played by the daughter of newly appointed Disney Studios head Alan Horn, starts off overly stern and officious, and then just seems to change her mind. (I especially liked how her “boyfriend’ is immediately established as a douche. Like… you don’t like him immediately, and that seemed cheap.

Some stuff happens.

Then it just ends. It’s supposed to be cheeky (no pun intended), and naughty, and all “whatever, we’re rated R”. It mostly just comes across as an excuse to display the undeniably impressive abs of several 2nd tier Hollywood actors.

The main laughable thing is that Matthew McConaughey is getting some sort of bizarre “best supporting actor” buzz. That’s totally insane, and a clear attempt to try to bring legitimacy or… something…. to a movie that really should just embrace the silliness.

I feel like if the movie was directed by someone else, I wouldn’t be cutting it down as much. If it were directed by Joe Johnston or some anonymous rom-com director, I think my issues would be framed a little differently. It really is just a silly movie full of eye candy for both sexual preferences (there are a lot of boobs in the movie, and it is my suspicion that there are even more that will be in the unrated version).

Unfortunately, the movie was directed by Steven Soderbergh. The same guy who directed Traffic. Ocean’s Eleven. Contagion. Movies with real points of view. Movies that are more than just a bunch of greased up dudes showing their asses (literally). The man was the first person in 60 plus years to be nominated for Best Director twice in the same year. I had higher hopes is all. Unfortunately, something got in the way, and I’m not quite sure what it is. There’s a nugget of a good movie somewhere in there. Maybe we just needed Don Cheadle to show up and cause some trouble. In an inexplicable British accident.

Overall… I give the movie a C-minus. Could have been much better.

Let’s talk for a minute, though, about the way the movie has entered our collective consciousness. Somewhere along the way, it’s been adopted by horny women (it’s really the era of Horny Women, isn’t it? What with Magic Mike and 50 Shades of Grey ) and gay men. That’s cool, you know… Everybody needs a movie to grab their attention. I just can’t think of another movie in my memory that has been so completely coopted that literally any other demographic of audience member risks ridicule.

I’ve gone to dozens of movies by myself. In fact, I mostly prefer it. Also, I don’t care if people think I’m gay. The people who need to know my sexual preference know it, and the rest of the world is free to speculate. I just think it’s weird that something as silly as a movie could even at all inform my sexuality.
Let me pose a question for you…

If there were a sports movie about a male swimming star… would that be off limits to sports fans because of the dudes in speedos? What about a movie about Greco-Roman wrestling?

I understand that some gay men and straight women might like to check out the greased up dancing dudes, and that’s cool. What if I just wanted to see a movie by the director of one of my favorite movies of the past 12 years? What if I have a thing for Olivia Munn? If a movie is good, I have no problem with seeing naked guys. It’s no different than straight women and gay men being subjected to the naked women who have proliferated movies for like… ever.

I hate it when I ramble… Here’s my point.

I think it’s time to stop assigning movies, people, songs, whatever to various groups. If I want to enjoy a Judy Garland movie, I should be able to without jokes and giggles. If a woman wants to go by herself to see some movie about football (Not a rom com that features football players) she should be able to without people throwing her a sideways eye. If a gay man wants to write a blog about hockey, he should be able to without fielding the numerous “but… I thought you were gay” questions. (Is that even a question?)

Of course, to make strides, we all have to play the game. We have to break down the walls of taboo.

We must go see fluffy ab-porn movies if they look remotely entertaining.

Just maybe not this one. Because it was dumb.

Coming Soon to the Blog: My Top 10 Broadway Musicals (I'm really throwing that gaydar for a loop today, I bet.


Unknown said...

I'm going with a group of girls to see it tomorrow. Total cliche, but a good excuse for a girl's night out, and no reasonable expectation of the movie actually being "good". None of my friends were interested, though, until I said the words "Channing Tatum," which I always find surprising, because the man does absolutely nothing for me. Matt Bomer has been my #1 celebrity guy for...a long time. Thank you Mr. Soderbergh and Mr. Soderbergh's casting director, for giving me a reasonable excuse to stare at my guy, shirtless, for 1 hour and 50 minutes. ABC

Laurie said...

Hear hear, Beefy!

And on a more mundane note, I've briefly considered going to see "Magic Mike" (most likely with my husband) because I thought it might be amusing and I usually like Steven Soderbergh's films. But, your review has convinced me that it's not a movie I want to pay even matinee prices to see. I'll catch it on cable one day, maybe.

djphob said...

Call me when there's full frontal. I remember an old magazine cover talking about how Burt Reynolds had started a "male nudity craze". The fact is that the tons of movies have tits with no man eye candy so far outweigh any movies catering to the female gaze and even this one HAD to have boobs. Sigh.

Beefy Muchacho said...

Well... i mean... you're right that there are more movies targeted toward men than women, but that's because up until recently, women weren't considered a viable base audience. The movies that made money (Blockbusters) were all male oriented, because it was believed that men go to see more movies.

The whole point I was trying to make, though, is that movies can aspire to be better than just eye candy, and when they succeed, people shouldn't be so caught up with labels like "Chick flick" or whatever that they stop themselves from seeing something good.

If Magic Mike had been a good movie, I would have had no issue with all the Tatum-Abs. As it was... I still had no qualms with the Tatum-Abs, but I did have to sit through a mediocre movie, and that was a bummer. Even if I did get to see Olivia Munn's rack (briefly).