If it's crap ... We'll tell you
A male stripper movie starring Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, Alex Pettyfer and a bunch of other beefcakes taking their clothes off for all the ladies to see! Is that the movie that you'll get by the end of the night? Well... no. While there is a fair share of man ass in this sausage fest, this movie never seems to take it all the way which is understandably disappointing because of the hypocrisy of the ratings board in America. For some reason, the film wants to go all the way and show the ladies what it's got for them in terms of the fulfillment of their secret fantasies for some of the best looking men in Hollywood to get down and dirty but due to the policies of the stuck-up men in business suits who can't learn to be progressive about how our culture perceives sexuality, the audience is given a movie that wants to go all the way but is afraid that the cops will bust down the door and take them away in handcuffs simply because a good percentage of this film's target audience are teenage girls who are blossoming into womanhood.
No matter what flaws this movie has, it presents itself very well and it has to. It's a film where it virtually cuts off half of the human population already (discounting boyfriends who were forced to go, gay men or otherwise) based on its premise and its actors have been heavily criticized by the film critic community at times for some of their performances in other films and they're all wondering if they can break through that "pretty boy" mould that they've been carved into and this film on the surface would not present itself as that. It opens up pretty well and it definitely tells you right from the start that it's not just for the ladies since the audience is treated to a scene where Channing Tatum's butt and Olivia Munn's boobs appear within thirty seconds of each other and that's only in the first two minutes. However, that's about as much as anyone is going to get in an hour and fifty minutes from them or anyone else showing their bare skin. Now that's not a problem, it's just that for what the movie wants to deliver, it can't because of some really stupid reasons that are out of their hands.
For the most part, the story is interesting and well-paced but the problem a lot of people might have is that there's not a whole lot going on. It's more methodical than it is showy. The showy parts are well choreographed and it shows that each actor has real talent for being a dancer (particularly and expectedly Channing Tatum) but it's more of a behind-the-curtains look at the world that goes on when the strippers aren't throwing themselves at every good looking girl in sight while they scream so loud that they'll get laryngitis. Every archetype that you could imagine for a stripper is here. The youngster who's just getting into the game, the seasoned veteran who owns the show whenever they're on stage, the manager whose whole life is devoted to this line of work, the Ken doll in this case, the exotic one with all the goods and the other ones who sort of fill in the background. For the most part, all the actors in this do a commendable job and are given an opportunity to really have fun! The sense of camaraderie and friendship that these guys share feels genuine and it really adds to the movie. Given that this film was made by Steven Soderbergh, who made the Ocean's trilogy, it's no coincidence.
If there's anything that's really noteworthy about this film, it's the fact that it proves that Channing Tatum has come a long way in the acting department. Sure he's always had a good look to him but his early attempts at acting were often painful to watch. Thankfully, he's been an actor who's been continuously improving and honing in on his craft and it's really shown this year with this film, The Vow, 21 Jump Street and other films of late. He's more at ease with the camera, he's more comfortable at being natural and he is exuding a lot of charisma! While this film might be unfair to use as his improvement in acting since it's partially his own story of being a young stripper at one time, it's irrelevant because of the fact that he is able to show many different kinds of emotions with ease in one film while maintaining an earnest quality. Alex Pettyfer is also really good in this as he finally manages to find a role that seems more like what he actually wants to do rather than what he's gotten so far. It always seemed like Pettyfer was uncomfortable playing such bland character types at times that it never really showed his capabilities but with his characterization of The Kid, he really validates himself as a credible actor and not just the pretty boy like Hollywood has tried to sell him as. One might look at him on the surface and think that he is a lazy bum who just doesn't want to do anything but as his journey goes along, he really comes across as this sad and misguided kid who just needs some sense of direction and guidance which he does have but ultimately becomes lost in the heat of the moment which hints at some very concerning conclusions. One of which is perfectly exemplified by Matthew McConaughey's Dallas who is the epitome of what is ultimately wrong with being the stripping game long enough. A good amount of these people just do these kinds of jobs to get by and to fund their dreams but then there are the people who live and thrive off of the idea of stripping for a living and while it looks like a beautiful prospect at 19 years old, it gets ugly really fast and ultimately by the time you're 45, it just becomes sad and pathetic. Granted, McConaughey's body is one any 45 year old guy would die for but his personality is ultimately one that is just vacuous. Despite his character, Matthew McConaughey proves why he got so big in the first place because his performance in this is so rich and cultured that it's no surprise if in the coming years he gets nominated for an award of some kind. He is seriously that good in this movie!
While Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, Adam Rodriguez, Kevin Nash and the rest of the men do well with what little they have to do, it's Cody Horn whose performance is puzzling to many. Her performance isn't necessarily bad, her character is just written in a way that's just unpleasant and it's hard to sympathize with her at all. Even though it's understandable that she's The Kid's sister and that she disapproves of his behaviour and lifestyle choice, she just comes across as a person who doesn't find joy in anything. Then again, Cody Horn's face is structured in a way to the point where her poker face makes her look grumpy even though she's quite pretty. Olivia Munn is also quite charming for the most part and her character is one that is best written oddly enough. She helps open the film and she is also there to realize Mike Lane's character arc at the end and what he is left to do with his life after a series of disturbances. One thing that is going to bother many people is the fact that the female characters in this movie are shamelessly shallow and it's really upsetting to watch. At first, it's fine because it's a story about male strippers and it's a fun show for them but after a while, when the real nitty-gritty details are revealed about the underbelly of such an occupation, it just becomes a really sad look at what these guys go through and it's almost painful to watch. There's the objectification of men and then there's the mortification of men and what these women to do these men is just devastating to watch as a man! The film is well made and knows exactly what it's doing but what it's doing is just draining the masculinity out until there's nothing left but shame and guilt that you even went on these characters' journeys with them at all.
With words like that, one could shy away from this movie completely but don't let that bother you. That's what it's supposed to do. It's giving you insight into a world that you'll want to visit but not live in anytime soon. The first two thirds of the movie are actually funny, light-hearted and fun to watch despite the slow pace. The details of what go on behind the curtains of these clubs are really interesting and it makes for some really great laughs! However, the film gets the most interesting in its darkest moments when we see that not everything is pretty. It's where the characters show their true light and for the most part, it's the environment and the objectification that makes them this way and not that they're born that way. It's also where a lot of the pathos enhances the story and makes it more than just a stripper movie. In a way, it's a movie that comments on our culture at this period in time and in that respect, it does it quite well. It's very subtle and what message it tries to convey isn't shoved down anyone's throat. In fact, the message itself is left up to one's interpretation with clear options to pick from depending on your outlook and that alone is worth giving the movie points.
Unlike what you'd expect, this film is one that makes you think about quite a lot for what it's essentially about. The actors for the most part give commendable performances, the film is shot beautifully with enough colored lights to make it a drug movie, the story is subtly telling us the story of today's world whilst tastefully covering it with half-naked men and the dances and laughs are balanced with enough drama to offer you a plethora of emotions. Just be warned that it doesn't go all the way physically (for the ladies) but it does go all the way emotionally (for the men) as the men's souls become exposed as opposed to their bodies.