Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Were audiences side-swiped by Magic Mike?

It’s an interesting one this. Last weekend, a grubby, plot-light Steven Soderbergh film took in more than $36 million at the US box-office. Okay, it wasn’t one of Steven’s most challenging films: the piece is closer to the eccentric (and, …

Sun, Jul 8, 2012, 22:22

   
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It’s an interesting one this. Last weekend, a grubby, plot-light Steven Soderbergh film took in more than $36 million at the US box-office. Okay, it wasn’t one of Steven’s most challenging films: the piece is closer to the eccentric (and, to my mind, excellent) The Informant! than the left-field (and, to my mind, rather horrid) The Girlfriend Experience. But that is still very good going for one of Steven’s more off-centre pieces. Indeed, the movie looks to have beaten the director’s previous record for an opening weekend: accrued by the star-heavy, featherweight Oceans Twelve. So, have audiences suddenly warmed to more challenging material?

Not necessarily. The film in question is Magic Mike. If you haven’t been paying attention, this is the picture based on Channing Tatum’s experiences as a male stripper. Mr Channing stars and the film is being promoted with images that promise much bumping and grinding from the square-headed actor. It is not unreasonable to assume that punters were expecting a juicy entertainment that works more furiously at the libido than it works at the frontal lobes. One can only imagine how they reacted when confronted with much sub-Altman muttering and a great deal of greasy, blotched cinematography. Actually, we don’t have to imagine. Polled punters gave the film a disappointing B-rating on their scorecards and, after a spectacular Friday, sales tailed off considerably as the weekend set in. Box-office Mojo described it as “one of the most front-loaded debuts ever”. It went on to drop a significant 60 percent on its second weekend on release.

We have written before about the way distributors shamefully misrepresent movies in their promotional material. The trailer for Magic Mike is not the most egregious example of this dark art. The film certainly seems a good deal livelier and more raunchy in the promo. You could be forgiven for thinking you were about to see a hen-party movie to set beside Mamma Mia! or Burlesque (not that anybody went to see Burlesque, but you get the idea). It does, however, include a degree of muttered dialogue and a few snatches of blurred cinematography. One suspects that the very words “Channing Tatum is a male stripper” were always going to draw in a big mainstream crowd. Pulling on my snooty cinephile hat, I can’t help but feel quietly smug about this result. I liked Magic Mike (which opens here on Friday). It doesn’t quite last the distance, but it feels authentic and sincere. If Steven had got a few strippers into Che it might have made a little more than $1.7 million worldwide. It could hardly have made amy less.

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