Review: Magic Mike
PLOT: MAGIC MIKE is a man of many talents. He knows construction, he can design furniture and he can shake his ass on stage. When he meets a young upstart named Adam, he reluctantly takes him under his wing and brings him into the wild world of stripping. Yet Adam’s sister is not too keen on the idea of her brother taking off his clothes for a bunch of strange women. And when he gets tempted by the excess of success, she finds that Mike may be the only one who can save Adam from this downward spiral while possibly giving up his own dreams in the process.
There are those that already have their preconceived ideas as to what the latest Channing Tatum male stripper movie has to offer. Sure you’d be hard pressed to find too many straight males wanting to go opening night no matter how good the film is – or how bad depending on your personal tastes. Yet really the question here is how you feel about the film’s director. MAGIC MIKE is a film by Steven Soderbergh in every way. It looks and feels every bit familiar for fans of the director. There is a healthy dose of male nudity clearly, but not nearly as exploitive and offensive as you’d expect. Aside from the stripping angle, this is far from SHOWGIRLS territory. Without the over-the-top melodrama, MIKE features a far more subdued – and much more effective – story about a stripper looking for something more.
The opening scene gives but a glimpse of Matthew McConaughey as Dallas working up a roomful of excitable women. Right as he has the room in a sexual frenzy, the word “JUNE” appears on-screen as the film takes place over a few months time. We then get the real story revolving around the directionless Adam (Alex Pettyfer) and his concerned sister Brooke (Cody Horn). And then there is the title character played by Channing Tatum who changes both of their lives forever. Mike brings Adam into the world of male stripping much to his sister’s dismay. It follows Adam’s rise as “The Kid” and his journey into excess, drugs, women, etc., but without resorting to overdramatic and manipulative storytelling. It is what it is, a simple story told with skill thanks to Soderbergh and screenwriter Reid Carolin.
The biggest upset for the staple audience is that the actual stripping and manflesh is fairly minimal in MAGIC MIKE compared to what you may expect. Sure there are a handful of numbers which include Pettyfer, Tatum, Joe Manganiello (TV’s “True Blood), Matt Bomer (TV’s “White Collar”) and Adam Rodriguez (TV’s “CSI Miami”) who are oft semi-naked on stage and in the dressing room. Yet the focus is mostly on the drama and thankfully, Tatum, Pettyfer and Horn are all quite good. The three of them bring a very natural feel to the script. Even during the last half of the film when things get a little darker it is still downplayed which is definitely part of Soderbergh’s appeal. It should be said however that there are moments that feel slightly repetitive when it comes to the dark aspects of this cautionary tale. Yep, too much of a good thing is TOO much.
Even though MAGIC MIKE is not scene after scene of naked men, the target audience probably won’t be too disappointed. Not only is Tatum very charismatic as Mike, he is one hell of a dancer. When he is on stage during the performance sequences - whether alone or with the group - he is by far the most accomplished of the cast. However, it is McConaughey that nearly steals every scene he is in. If you ever wondered what happened to David Wooderson from DAZED AND CONFUSED, he might have ended up as Dallas. Several times throughout the film you’ll hear him say, “alright, alright, alright” with that slow Southern drawl. And as far as stripping goes, his one shining moment begins with an acoustic tune about all the ladies at the club he loves, and ends with him wearing a g-string and a smashed guitar.
In the end, Soderbergh makes MAGIC MIKE work better than you’d ever expect – unless of course you are a straight woman or a gay man and you are hoping for some full monty (there is only one short and comic penis shot). Much like HAYWIRE earlier this year, he takes a familiar genre and tweaks it to his cinematic vision. The cast works incredibly well together and the stripping… well, it will most assuredly make some very happy. When the lights are up, you’ve got both Tatum and McConaughey burning up the screen and an engaging love story that is well crafted thanks to a very talented director. Of course if your girlfriend or wife drags you to see this, Olivia Munn and Mircea Monroe bare their breasts. Not too shabby at all.