Q – When is a fluffy ‘chick-flick’ not a fluffy ‘chick-flick’?

A – When it’s a smart and funny film from an Academy Award and Palm d’Or-winning indie-darling director.

Last night I went to see Magic Mike. I know what you’re thinking, as my friends were honest enough to tell me to my face.

Why?

The quickly-formulated and defensive answer I gave was that it was a free screening and we are planning to review it for the Failed Critics podcast next week. This followed by quickly changing the subject to a discussion on the failure of youth football coaches in England to teach the technical skills needed for our players to play at the highest level seemed to satisfy them that my manhood was not in question.

After this conversation played out a few times, I started getting annoyed. Why shouldn’t I go to see this film? I put this to one of my best mates and he smirked, said it all seemed a bit…well, you know, and pointed out a bus poster he had seen for the film. The implication was that this isn’t a film for a man to go and see. He was completely unaware of the fact that indie-directing legend Steven Soderbergh had directed this film, or the critical praise that both Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey have already received for their performances.

The poster for the film that I have seen plastered across seeming ly every bus in town shows the three leads of the film (Tatum, McConaughey, and Alex Pettyfer) topless and dancing on stage. The quotes used say things like “Terrific Entertainment” and “Funny, Sexy, Cool”. Nowhere does it say “From the director that brought you Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven, and Sex, Lies, and Videotape”. The trailer promotes this “fun, sexy, cool” vibe with over half of it showing the stripping (which accounts for about 10% of the actual film), and standard rom-com set-up lines between Tatum and Cody Horn – plus a Rihanna song – that doesn’t feature in the film – playing loudly in the background to remind you of this film’s fun, sexy, and cool charms.

At first I was angry that the film’s publicity team had taken their eye so badly off the ball, but it only took me a few seconds to realise this probably was the impression they wanted to give. At its heart, Magic Mike is an independent film – but where is the profit in attracting a broad range of cinema lovers to a film? The distributors of this film know that their profit lies in the thousands of women who will persuade their friends to go with them to see the film where Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey strip.

They’re not going to be disappointed. There is a fair amount of Tatum flesh on display in this film – but there is also a healthy (depending on your viewpoint) amount of female nudity, and some pretty dark drug-taking sequences. It’s certainly not ‘The Full Monty with fit blokes’.

I enjoyed the film, and I’m now going to have to start the process of defending it as a piece of art rather than the mindless man-candy fun its distributors would have you believe it is. Almost every man I know enjoyed the film 300. Magic Mike has only half as much oiled man-flesh on display, and about a tenth of the homoeroticism.

Magic Mike is released on July 11th, and we will be reviewing it on Failed Critics Episode 13.

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