Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Matthew McConaughey, Cody Horn, Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, Alex Rodriguez, Kevin Nash, Olivia Munn
Channing Tatum uses his brief real life history as a male stripper as the idea behind his latest collaboration with director Steven Soderbergh. Mike Lane(Tatum) makes the majority of his income as a stripper in a male revue called Xquisite. During the daytime he works construction in the Tampa area and dabbles in homemade furniture. He meets Adam (Pettyfer) one morning on a new construction site. Adam seems fairly shy and introverted, but he and Mike bond throughout the day. Mike runs into Adam later at a club as he is promoting audience members for the Xquisite show. Adam is persuaded to head over to the revue by Mike and two young girls out celebrating a twenty-first birthday. Adam’s eyes are wide open as he experiences a male revue for the first time. He watches as “Magic Mike” and the rest of the crew including: Tarzan (Nash), Big Dick Ritchie (Manganiello), Ken (Bomer), and Tito (Rodriquez) put on a choreographed show. He gets thrust onstage himself to have dollars bills thrown at him by the giddy drunken ladies. The easy money is all too alluring for Adam and he decides to join the show after an offer from Mike and club owner Dallas (McConaughey). Being the newbie that he is, he is given the moniker “The Kid” as his stage name.
Even though the money is pouring in, life is not always a jolly good time for our young dancers. Adam’s sister Brooke (Horn) finds out about his new endeavor when she discovers the G-strings laying around and catches Adam shaving his legs with her razor. She struggles with the thought of him being a stripper but tries to put trust in Mike to keep him on the straight and narrow. Mike’s flirting towards her doesn’t help matters. Mike would ideally like to leave the stripping behind to start up his customized furniture business. He runs into problems with the bank as he doesn’t have good credit as he primarily deals in cash tips. Adam begins to delve deep into the night life. He is making good money and hooking up with beautiful women. Sounds great except he is becoming cocky and falling deeper into drugs and alcohol.
Soderbergh is dealing with lighter material here than we have been used to seeing him do lately, but it still retains that Soderbergh feel. Using the pseudonym Peter Andrews, he is also the cinematographer on his own movies. He seems to use a lot of wide shots and natural lighting to set up the scenes. He sets the camera up and just lets it capture the scene as it unfolds. Characters come in and out of the frame without a lot of choppy editing to cover it up. I wish the studio would have promoted his name more during the marketing blitz. Who am I kidding. People are coming out for Channing Tatum and other hunks stripping, not because it is the latest Soderbergh offering.
The screenplay by Reid Carolin is pretty basic. You have the simple premise of a young naive nineteen-year old being enamored by the money and women that comes with being a stripper only to have him crash and burn when drugs and alcohol come into play. It has a simple morality story to it. Magic Mike isn’t as campy as Showgirls and it isn’t as gritty as Boogie Nights. It falls somwhere in the middle. The movie does not fully invest into the struggle Mike has with started his business nor do we really learn about some of the other characters like Big Dick Ritchie, Ken, and the other strippers. Am I asking for too much in the way of character and plot development? Maybe. Tatum co-produced the movie with Carolin. Along with Soderbergh, they have a great cast that perfectly fits these characters. McConaughey is impressive and gives one of the stronger performances in the movie showing more sides to Dallas than one might expect. At the end of the day, the fun of the movie is that it is about male strippers. Those scenes make the movie work. The fun choreography and behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to be a stripper is interesting. I can only assume it is fairly accurate due to Tatum’s past. The legions of women and gay men buying tickets are not going for gritty plot twists and stylistic film making. They are going for the rock hard abs of Joe Manganiello and chiseled Channing Tatum body. There was applause before the movie and during the movie.
RATING: ***1/2 (3.5 out of 5 stars)