La Bare (R)

Documentary 90 min. June 27, 2014
By Ernest Hardy
"Men are more like a microwave; women are like an oven: We need a pre-heat." That's a woman who frequents the titular male-stripper club La Bare, explaining the differences between the sexes when they go to see strippers. A recurring observation (from patrons and dancers) in this documentary on the groundbreaking Dallas club is that women who go see male dancers want a story, a fantasy that is as sensual and playful as it is sexual, while (straight) men who hit up strip clubs simply want "big titties."

That's one of the few (if obvious) insights in actor-turned-director Joe Manganiello's slight, mildly entertaining film, a real-life Magic Mike. Manganiello's focus is, of course, on the dancers: from Master Blaster Randy, the tough-love father figure at the club who, with more than 30 years in the business, has been dancing longer than any other male stripper, to the sculpted young guns working the stage now. Manganiello weaves in their personal stories (a couple of Afghanistan war vets, a failed young businessman, etc.) as he tells the history of the club. While most of the men are good-looking, few prove truly magnetic or interesting when fully dressed and talking about themselves. (A couple are borderline Neanderthals.)

There are two notable exceptions to the lulls that pepper the film: One is an amateur night contest where men of all stripes take the stage to see if they make the grade; it's a cringe-inducing but funny segment. The other is when the dancers talk about a colleague who was senselessly murdered, and whose murderer got away with it. Their anguish and grief briefly elevate La Bare into something moving and substantive.
Joe Manganiello Joe Manganiello, Lance Winters, Nick Soto Nick Manganiello, Joe Manganiello Main Street Films

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