Wednesday, July 18, 2012

“Magic Mike”: “Valley of the Dolls” Redux

     The primarily middle-aged, female audience that attended the matinée when we saw Magic Mike was there to see Channing Tatum et al. dance and strip.  If it had just been about that experience, it would have been fun.  However, the writer-producer Reid Carolin decided that there needed to be a story so he chose the moldy cliché of the performer who reaches too far and has to be brought down.  Back in the early ‘40s when the performers were female starlets, it was called Ziegfeld Girl and along with dreary Lana Turner, whose character turns to alcohol, there was the eye candy of Hedy Lamarr as the gal who lands a rich guy, and the propulsive talent of Judy Garland as the kid who makes it.  In the ‘60s, drugs substituted for alcohol, resulting in the wildly tawdry Valley of the Dolls.  In the ‘70s, the black version was Sparkle and it’s a minor gem because both Lonette McKee and Irene Cara were crackerjack singer-actresses.

Dexter Performs with the Strippers
     I wish there was a scene like Patty Duke screaming, “I am Neely O’Hara” in the alleyway at the end of Valley in Magic Mike, but no such luck.  Critics have been remarkably
supportive of this second-rate, glamorous schlock citing the originality of reverse gender roles, though I think they just enjoyed ogling the guys as well.  Channing Tatum is a wonderful street dancer and the movie could have used two more numbers with him dancing.  The backstage details of what the guys go through to prepare are really interesting, but they needed more development.   The drug story is useless; there are about three sets; and Cody Horn is an offbeat love interest, but her character isn’t exactly credible.   

     The character that starts up the whole drug bit is an obese, affable Latino DJ, played by the talented comedian Gabriel Iglesias.  When a black character actually appears, he’s been paid to trash Tatum’s house.  In another scene, there’s a quick, disparaging reference to gays.  Don’t they realize that there are gay exotic male dancers?  Matt Bomer, who plays one of them, is publicly and courageously (for a romantic TV lead) out.  Yep, it feels like the Magic is that we’ve gone back in time to the worst part of 1971 or so and that includes the awful font on the titles.

     On the plus side, the creepy, oleaginous Matthew McConaughey has found the perfect role as the preening, selfish, exploitative owner.  However, why move this thriving business to Miami where it will be a small fish in a big pond?  (McConaughey was also good as a benevolent sleaze in The Lincoln Lawyer last year, but he needs a new haircut pronto).   Tatum’s actual story as an exotic dancer, discovered by a talent scout on the street, who then modeled and danced in videos in New York would have been a much more interesting story than this one.

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