Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat

I was so looking forward to Magic Mike but like every bad movie, it had a crappy script.

I'm not familiar with director Steven Soderbergh's work except "Sex, Lies and Videotape" which I saw when it first came out in the theater. I love this movie and have seen it several times since. This scene is a good example of why it works. The movie builds up to this moment of Graham, played by James Spader telling Ann, played by Andie McDowell he interviews women talking about sex on videotape. Which doesn't sound like a big deal except we can see it is a big deal to Ann - it's great how she keeps almost spilling her ice tea. We understand why she's upset - it's been established that Ann idealizes Graham as a sort of spiritual guru, which she finds a refreshing change from  her gonzo lawyer husband John (Peter Gallagher) - and we also know that John is having an affair with Ann's sister Cynthia played by Laura San Giacomo. Learning that Graham is interested in sex, and in such an unconventional way, is a huge disillusionment for Ann.

Magic Mike has elements of SL&V and Boogie Nights. In both Sex Lies and Videotape and Boogie Nights there is a tension between sleaze and authenticity; between sex and love. But unfortunately Magic Mike fails because unlike Boogie Nights we don't get to learn much about the cast of characters involved in the stripping trade; and yet even though Magic Mike is focused on only three characters, Magic Mike, "The Kid" and the Kid's sister we barely know anything about them. In Sex Lies and Videotape we learn so much about the four characters' personalities through clever dialog but mostly through their interactions.

It's sad that Soderbergh could get everything right with a small budget movie like Sex Lies and Videotape twenty years ago and yet get it so wrong, with all the experience he's had since that movie, with Magic Mike.

As always the problem is the script. Magic Mike's script goes nowhere. I enjoy looking at beautiful male bodies but at some point you need a story that works. And to be honest I enjoy looking at young James Spader's angelically beautiful face and hair more than Channing Tatum for all his amazing abs and pecs - with his crew cut he looks like a drill sergeant, not an object of romantic desire. And the sister is a nothing character - her entire role is to say no to Magic Mike until the very last two minutes of the movie when she says yes. Boring.

Channing Tatum does some good acting in spite of the nothing script, and Matthew McConaughey has some great moments early on - he's the Burt Reynolds character from Boogie Nights - but he's one-note - he wants to take his business to Miami -  and after a while it gets old. But damn that man is is great shape for 42. His torso is amazing. His first scene of this movie built up my hopes. But there is no magic here.

Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat.