"Try to understand, try to understand, try, try, try to understand, he's a Magic Mike, mama!" Heart, ladies and gentlemen, one of, if not the only good hard chick rock bands. No, I'm kidding, women aren't inferior, it's just that it's an unfortunate coincidence that even us dude's strip dances are cooler, so much so that it's easy to forget that there are, hopefully at worst, half-naked men through all of the spectacle, which of course doesn't stop women from hootin' and hollerin' like animals. Jeez, and they call us men pigs, so I reckon you could say that this is something of a companion piece to Steven Soderbergh's other 2012 film, "Haywire", as a testament to how women really can be just like men... or at least as far as brutally killing people and primal perversion are concerned (Yeah, way to go with the pro-women messages, Steve). Well, this film is either that, or another glaring sign that Soderbergh is secretly gay, because the guy has made a trilogy about a group of handsomely slick dudes, has made a few films that desuxualize women, now has a film about male stripping under his belt (So to speak), is working on a film about Liberace and is considering leaving it all to become a painter. If nothing else, this film shows that Channing Tatum can still dance like a champ and that Matthew McConaughey can both still look good at, I don't know, 84 or whatever, and still make the simple line, "Alright, alright, alright" sound awesome. Either way, the fact of the matter is that this film is a success in more ways than one, which of course makes it even more of a shame that the film itself doesn't succeed at being all that enjoyable, and not just because it's packed with barely clothed men, and yet, as startlingly and actually rather surprisingly underwhelming as this film is, it's no bad show, partially because it's certainly not stripped of its share of strengths, particularly of a visually stylistic nature.
As Peter Andrews, Steven Soderbergh may very well be among the great cinematographers of today, and with this film, he all but disappoints, as there is only so much in the way of bite to the style, as well as only so much in the way of dazzle to the photography itself, yet it's not like that's saying much, for although this film isn't as striking as certain other Soderbergh films, it still boasts a handsome look, with reasonably eye-catching depth to the neatly yellowish coloring that, when complimented by occasions in which stylistic choices finally pick up, livens things up a bit. What further livens things are, well, the dance sequences, because through all of male strippery around which the dances are built, there are nifty and dynamic set pieces with clever staging and production designs, complimented by slick, if not pretty remarkable choreography, thus making for sequences that can be potentially enjoyed by both women and men (though there are certain types of men who will enjoy the dance sequences more than others). These dance sequences are few and far between, but, due to their quality, actually pretty well worth waiting for, no matter who you are, though that's largely because between the dance sequences, you're left with the exceedingly dull nothingness that plagues this film to no end, yet never to the point of fully destroying the film, partially because the nothingness is too bland to be bad, and partially because the dialogue, while not too terribly upstanding, has a certain charm and, occasionally, snap to it, and it's made all the better by the performers behind the delivery of the dialogue, or at least most of them. I've heard the pretty key performance of Cody Horn described as terrible, and really, it's not, though make no mistake, Horn remains considerably weak, with a bland limpness to her expressiveness, and an all but profound lack of acting presence overall. Horn isn't the disaster that I've heard her described as, yet she is the weakest link, and enough so that she further dilutes the bite of a near-biteless film, which of course makes the other performances all the more worthy of appreciation, for although there's hardly anything for the performers to work with, most everyone engages, to one extent or another, with even Alex Pettyfer impressing with charisma and believability as the initially awkward and eventually self-destructive young man slowly but surely slipping into the dark depths of the debauchery-tainted world of stripping, while Matthew McConaughey charms immensely as the still-got-it slicker and leading man Channing Tatum both delivering on charisma and showing promise as a capable lead presence. There are only so many members of this cast, and even less material for what performers there are to work with, yet what performances there are, with the obvious exception of that of Cody Horn's, charm, yet are certainly not the only sources of charm within this film, for although the film fails to bite as firmly as it should, its strengths are there, standing as one of the reasons why the film goes saved from disaster in the long run. Still, the fact of the matter is that the film does, in fact, fail to bite as firmly as it should, to put if mildly, for although the film isn't without its strengths, quite frankly, the faults stand most pronounced, not to where they drive the film into contempt, as they're not really all that terribly problematic, but certainly to where the final product is rendered tremendously mediocre, which isn't to say that the film was ever going to hit all that much, seeing as how it's pretty hard to do all that much with a film with nearly no plot.
Obnoxiously depraved women go on and on with their "joking" about how they couldn't care less about this film's having a plot or not, but really, when you get down to it, this film really is all but devoid of actual plot, meditating upon pure nothingness and slices of life intensely with hardly any story structure, which would be more forgivable were it not for the film's running out of new ideas for filler so quickly that Terrence Malick would feel inadequate as a do-nothing "story"teller, in that it doesn't take long before the film becomes considerably repetitious, nor does it take all before the repetition slips into all-out monotony, which may not be so intense that the film is rendered unbearably tedious, yet stands as far too pronounced for the film to pick up all that much of what momentum it actually has. Of course, the faults within the filler don't simply end with the repetition, as the filler itself is hardly all that terribly well-crafted, for although there's a certain charm to the dialogue and character interactions, close to nothing goes on within the lives from which this non-plot takes slices, and this nothingness is made all the worse by the filler's just plain being so excessive and overdrawn, with bland dialogue and set pieces that drag on ever so awkwardly, and are made awkward enough by their being so realist that they, rather than immerse you in this world and the characters' comradery, repel you from the environment. For this and other missteps, credit is not only by Reid Carolin coldly do-little script, - such as it is - but to Steven Soderbergh, because if you think that his cinematography is under-inspired, then just wait until you see his direction, for although there's not much story to tell in the first place, Soderbergh's storytelling feels almost profoundly uninspired. Soderbergh has rarely been one to deliver on all that much of a juiced atmosphere, but with this film, atmosphere is bone-dry, largely because narrative structure is as borderline devoid as the plot layout itself, because although very little goes on in this plot, there are still enough happenings to where this film should, for all extents and purposes, feel as though it's going through some kind of progression, yet when it's all said and done, Soderbergh provides hardly any feeling of rise or fall in action, leaving the film to coast along nothingness ever so disengagingly blandly. This is indeed a mainstream project for Soderbergh, yet Soderbergh has never forgotten his independent roots, and certainly doesn't forget them here, turning in a film with the audacity to take on a structure in which nothing but nothing goes on, only excessive filler, and in many cases, films of this type tend to boast arrogance, but with this film, there is not arrogance, as there's not even enough juice in the film for it to be pretentious. Again, the film isn't really all that tedious, being consistently talkative and graced by charm in both its ambition and performances, but there's just no way around this film's being just so do-little, and this blanding misstep going intensified by Soderbergh's almost trademark limp and quiet atmosphere, at its limpest and quietest, the final product comes out, not simply slow or dull, but just plain boring as all get-out. I can go on and on with my complaints, but at the end of the day, this is hardly a truly bad film, being with its share of strengths, and even if those strengths weren't there, this film would still stand a chance of going saved by its simply being too bland to be bad, though the fact of the matter is that this film is just so bland, with hardly anything going on in the writing department, and almost less going on within Steven Soderbergh's direction, thus making for what is nothing short of a let-down of a mediocre bore.
To strip this review down to the bare bones and end this dance at the magic hour... or magic three hour, or however long this film felt, photography is about as handsome as the stars, though not as striking as the dynamic and slickly-staged, produced and choreographed dance sequences that break up the long periods of nothingness that are kept alive by, if nothing else, a certain charm to the dialogue, made all the more charming by a couple charismatic performances, thus making for a film that stands safe from collapse into disaster, though not so securely that it doesn't decent into mediocrity, as there is very little in the way of plot with this film, which instead chooses to bombard with repetitious, excessive and altogether rather awkwardly handled filler that blands things up tremendously, especially when pronounced by considerable under-inspiration within Steven Soderbergh's nearly narrativeless and atmospherically limp direction, which goes into making "Magic Mike" an exceedingly dull - nay - fiercely boring disappointment that stands as both one of Soderbergh's biggest missteps and a mediocre misfire by its own right.
2/5 - Mediocre