Magic Mike suffers from a lack of focus and too much bare ass.

Yes. There is such a thing as too much bare ass. Although the 200 screaming women in my sold out screening would loudly disagree. Wow!  If anything, I can say that Magic Mike was a unique movie watching experience.  A very interactive experience.

First of all, I should let you know that I do not care for the male strip club environment.  Why would sexy, naked men dancing provocatively not appeal to me?  Well, usually after about a half an hour of laughing at the unbelievable, out of control reactions of the normally subdued women–I get bored. I tire of the constant bombardment of bare ass. I need substance. Sexy to me is mental. Humor. Intelligence. Those qualities turns me on more than gyrating hips.

So, it is easy for me to correlate Magic Mike with a strip club adventure.  It is fun at times.  Outrageous sometimes.  But, overall lacking substance.  And yes…I did get bored.

This is strike 3 for me towards director Steven Soderbergh.  A huge fan of many of his earlier films, these last 3 have not impressed me.  Contagion disappointed (I had high hopes).  Haywire had bad ass fighting and that is about it.  And now Magic Mike.

My biggest problem is that there are two separate stories being told.  And I blame writer Reid Carolin more than Soderbergh.  One is this funny, lighthearted  look at the behind scenes antics of male strippers with an intelligent, level-headed dancer taking on a protegé.  The other is a depressing, over-long look at the dark, seedy side of the stripper world–full of sex, drugs and appropriately enhanced dance music and it follows an old stripper trying to find himself.

There is nothing wrong with either story–except that the way it’s presented, you end up with an upbeat first half (with a energetic audience) and a sad, awkward second half (with an obviously deflated audience).  While my daughter and I wanted more story–I would dare assume 198 other women wanted more ass!  I think many of them did not sign up for an actual plot driven narrative. 😉

There are some bright spots.  The brightest is Channing Tatum.  I know!  This is the second film I’ve liked him in–and not because of his looks–but because he is growing as an actor and he truly delivers here.  Charming, funny, tortured and remorseful–he is able to infuse his character with all this and more.  And did I mention he can DANCE?!  Yes. We all know it, but he is showing off in this one.  😀  This script is based on some Tatum’s life experiences as a 19-year-old stripper and you can tell he is comfortable and familiar in this arena.

Second bright spot?  Matthew McConaughey.  I usually describe his movies as “shirt on or shirt off” films and this is a new addition because although his shirt is definitely off–McConaughey delivers a “shirt on” performance. Comical and sinister. He will make you laugh and he will intimidate you.  It is a fine portrayal of what I dubbed a “stripper pimp”.  Oh, how I wish his character had been developed and explored more.

Everyone else blends with the background–even said protege Alex Pettyfer, the other dancers and love interest Cody Horn.  Tatum and Horn have some natural chemistry (and they share my favorite moments in the film and some of the best dialogue) but the focus on their relationship is so sparse, that I did not feel anything for their eventual romance.

As you can see, I did not hate Magic Mike but I did not love it either.  It offers a certain level of entertainment, yet for me fails to achieve real depth.  I was watching the clock and ready to exit during the last 30 minutes.  Just like a real strip club, I was eventually bored and uninterested by the end.

I was ready to hate 21 Jump Street, but shockingly I didn’t…

I didn’t LOVE it either, but I liked it well enough to enjoy myself. Seems  21 Jump Street was better than it had the right to be. The most shocking part is that there was an actual narrative–WHA?!  A narrative that was well-executed, well acted and kept my attention.  Wait…wait…you want to know the really, really shocking part?  My favorite character was played by Channing Tatum!!  WHA-WHA?!  I know.  Craziness.  (For those who do not know Mr. Tatum annoys me–he is Keanu Reeves replacement for best wooden acting.)

There were a few things that were keeping me from running to theater to watch 21 Jump Street.  First, it appeared to have nothing in common with the original source (yes…I am old enough to have watched the television series and I am not a fanatic about it, but still…), which was more of a dramedy than a straight out comedy.  Secondly, the trailer was not funny to me.  But, I started hearing all the positive press and reviews and thought I would give it a chance.

I am glad I did and although I did not think it was the “best comedy since Hangover (part 1)” (which still ranks #1 of making me cry from laughter throughout), I did have fun.   There were times of genuine laughter, some of the jokes were dead on–LOL moments for sure!  And there were also times of me–shaking my head–laughing–but more at the absurdity, and not at the punchline. 

The best thing about this film is that writer Michael Bacall (Scott Pilgrim–one of my favs) is clever and infuses the story with real moments–amidst all the ludicrous behavior–and those moments are the heart of the story and what makes you care for these two guys.  Then add the directing team of Chris Miller and Phil Lord (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs–another fav) and let them create this zany, fast-paced ride–without losing sight of just how absurd it all is and having massive fun with it. Some of the most successful ‘funny” happened when they were mocking themselves.  Well done guys!

Jonah Hill is strong here and I already know that this kid has some comedy and acting chops (check out Cyrus if you doubt it)–so no surprise there.  But Channing Tatum? He, I usually avoid–but I liked him here–his style worked–he is still wooden, but he is supposed to be. And yet, he was able to emote real sadness and was pretty damn funny.  Shocker, for sure!  The supporting cast is solid–especially the HS kids–but this is the Jonah + Channing show–all the way. 

Overall it was a good time.  It was probably better that I had ZERO expectations, because it allowed me to go it with an open mind.  So, I will say–check it out if you want a fun, silly and sometimes really funny time.  You may thank Korean Jesus for it!  😉

Red Band trailer–do not watch if you’re sensitive to foul language!