Stephen Soderbergh’s latest effort, Magic Mike, is fairly brilliant. If you consider ridiculous good times to make up brilliance.
Then Magic Mike is fairly brilliant. Like I already said.
What was expected to be the millennial, male Showgirls brings its A game and it doesn’t deliver the same kind of camp we saw in that other notorious stripper movie.
It’s a different kind of camp, with kooky, fun costumes (police officers, firemen, Tarzan) that are the kind where Channing Tatum grins and spins. It takes itself less seriously and succeeds beyond Showgirls (though do not get me wrong, Showgirls is a masterpiece) because, no offence Elizabeth Berkely, that Tatum dude can dance.
Like, really dance. Like, well.
The dramatic tension in Showgirls was spectacular and outrageous, but the tanned male bodies on display on a tiny, yet ample and modestly dressed stage in Tampa, are nothing like the bodies gyrating in the sparkly extravagance of the Vegas strip.
These dudes are here for a good time, their troubles aren’t on the stage or even backstage, guys who are good at their jobs, they’re just guys who take off their clothes for money and perform some sweet choreography.
There’s a vibrant sense of fun each time these guys pull off their Velcro pants to reveal their banana hammocks. These men are enjoying themselves and no one is trying to get the top spot on the pole by pushing someone else down a flight of stairs.
Xquisite just isn’t that kind of club, where the dancers are feuding over headline spots, partially because they get a lot of solos and the other dancers are insanely outrageous and hilarious group numbers.
Naked bodies are lovely and beautiful, but even with so much man-butt I couldn’t help but get distracted by other details.
So here are a few things that caught my eye in Magic Mike:
Ford F150s – Sure, there are bigger trucks, but the classic F150 has built-in magic. It’s not like a muscle car, a convertible, a BMW. It’s not screaming anything about the man behind the wheel.
The Ford F150 simply states to all who pass by that the man in the truck is a regular dude, living his life. It says, “I am an average dude, driving an average truck and you can’t tell if I’m average or not in the underpants area.”
It’s got the right level of blue-collar grit and sleek shininess. It also provides one of the best visual details in the film.
Vests – These not-shirts are the most important piece of clothing in the world of male stripping. They come in all sizes and shapes, are often cropped, and can be sparkly, leather, formal or fringed.
Worn with no shirt underneath, obviously, they create the illusion of pseudo-modesty that everyone is looking for when they’re watching male strippers dance.
Tarzan – The buff bodies of the other strippers are all wonderful and made of machismo and other stuff, but Kevin Nash gets the high fives here. Kevin Nash is a huge WWE Superstar and also a not-so-expert dancer.
Every scene with him is comedy gold, and even the ones where he’s supposed to be sexy. He is sexy-funny. Just like a professional wrestler acting as a stripper should be. Perfection.
While watching Magic Mike it’s sort of important to pay attention to the plot and what’s going on in the foreground, but it’s even more important to pay attention to everything happening in the background! Most importantly is to constantly watch to see if Tarzan is doing anything.
Some apparently important conversation might be happening between two characters, but check to see if Tarzan is dancing or flexing or whispering in Joe Mangeniello’s ear in the background. It will make your life better.
Sun – The neon and mood lighting inside the strip club adds the appropriate ambiance to the film. And by ambiance I mean straight up, stripper lighting. But there is another light source that makes this film magic.
The sun! The scenes outside in the light of day, along the Florida beaches are magnificent. If the shots of hard bodies grinding are enticing, these shots in the sun are breathtaking. And not to overuse the world, but there is something magical about the whole affair.
Inside the lights are moody, but bright, outside the Tampa air is warm and the glint of sun streaks looks almost artificial, because it’s so damn perfect. And almost naked bodies look so damn pretty in the evening sunlight.
Channing Tatum’s tears – This guy might not be the best actor on the block, but he’s hella charming, has sweet, sweet dance moves and the man can cry like a champ. The tears wetting his cheek as he drives his Ford F150 around Tampa in silent contemplation of what he’s lost are as well choreographed as his sexy hip hop routine.
The audience – Damn, girl! ... Is what I wanted to say every two minutes during this super-soft-core fest for ladies who want to see actors get almost nude.
Ladies, and dudes, were shouting at the screen, giggling like mad, at a variety of different types of scenes. In general, the crowd mimicked the drunk, horny women sitting in peeno row (is that a thing, a term we can use to describe male strip club seating?) at that on-screen strip club.
Chirping, yelling and loving every minute of it.