I was disgusted by MAGIC MIKE. Not because of some homophobic fear of male nudity (of which there’s honestly not a lot), but by how talented Channing Tatum continues to prove himself. I’ve tried very hard to hate the guy from STEP UP, but Tatum makes it more and more impossible with every role he takes. Here, it’s his likability and familiarity that makes this very personal film easy to watch.
In fact, all the performances in MAGIC MIKE are pretty effortless. Though I can’t say anybody should be up for awards, they are very natural and seem to be having fun with their roles (except for maybe a stiff Cody Horn, daughter of Warner Bros. president Alan Horn). Most of the other strippers— Matthew McConaughey, Matt Bomer, “True Blood’s” Joe Manganiello and wrestling star Kevin Nash—are, predictably enough, just eye candy though. While their gyrations are stellar, their characters are pretty much defined by whatever gaudy costume they’re wearing onstage, which is okay since the movie really does belong to Tatum and his mentee Alex Pettyfer. Tatum seems to be more charismatic under director Steven Soderbergh’s tutelage (although that’s to be expected since this is based on his own life) and he also gets a chance to flex a little dramatic muscle in addition to his actual biceps. Pettyfer plays the spoiled up-and-comer pretty well (though if behind the scenes rumors are to be believed, that’s not much of a stretch).
Still, MAGIC MIKE is very different than the previews suggested. (Sorry, ladies!) While there’s plenty of fun in the strip club, this is not your typical lighthearted summer fare. It’s more of a dramatic character piece about struggling and maturing young men. There’s moments of levity (mainly thanks to the comedic chops Tatum honed in 21 JUMP STREET) but don’t be surprised to learn about the seedy, dark side of exotic dancing. It doesn’t look down on the profession, but it still gives an honest portrayal of the ups and downs. Case in point: It’s not all oiled asses and sunshine.
It is proof of Steven Soderbergh’s chameleon-like versatility as a director. The film balances different tones with ease and moves at a quick, fun pace thanks to some slick cinematography choices. But the bigger issue is that there’s just not much exciting or fresh to the story other than the possibility that you may get a peek at McConaughey’s gooch. MAGIC MIKE is a pretty standard mentor movie—where the young hotshot flies too close to the sun, ignoring the pleas of his wiser, older guide (kinda like ROCKY V with assless chaps, or BOOGIE NIGHTS without actual penetration). There’s not much in the way of surprises or unpredictability, but while it ends a bit too cleanly, all the good things about MAGIC MIKE still leave a positive taste in your mouth.
Backstage on MAGIC MIKE: This quick and easy behind the scenes has a little bit of everything—how the movie came about, the dance choreography (which Olivia Munn calls “a big cheer team”) and interviews with the hunky stars.
Dance Play Mode: Watch all the stripping scenes in a row without all that pesky story crap. Your girlfriend’s head explodes!
Deleted and Extended Scenes: These are pretty much just extended versions of some of the dance scenes seen in the big strip club montage. More head exploding!
If you saw the previews for MAGIC MIKE and assumed it was just a two-hour excuse for male strippers, I can gladly say there’s quite a bit more to it than that—mainly the talents of Channing Tatum and Steven Soderbergh. While the story is a bit predictable, should you be forced to watch this by a significant other, you might be surprised.
Extra Tidbit: Channing Tatum originally wanted DRIVE’s Nicolas Winding Refn to direct, but Refn was already committed to ONLY GOD FORGIVES.