For weeks – media has been ablaze over director Steven Soderbergh’s based-on-the-real-life-of-Channing Tatum comedy/drama Magic Mike. It’s been promoted on radio and television, in magazines and papers, and all across social media sites like twitter and facebook – and the list could go on. The goal? To fill theaters across America with groups of salivating people – mostly women (and some men), all anxious to catch a glimpse of Hollywood’s hottest young and established actors baring all for the summer male stripper flick. Magic Mike, however, succeeds on more than just the tanned, toned, sexually moving bodies of its ensemble and is sure to join the “classic” ranks of similarly daring movies like Boogie Nights (1997) and 54 (1998).
Fortunately for Soderbergh, Magic Mike succeeds by being abrupt, funny, dramatic, dangerous, risqué, sexy, cool, and is cinematically speaking, relatively original. Mike (Channing Tatum), an experienced stripper introduces Adam/”The Kid” (Alex Pettyfer) to the life of stripping – a life where partying is an art, money is easy, and picking up women is a perk. Along with the rest of the cast, which includes Matthew McConaughey/”Dallas,” Matt Bomer/”Ken” (of USA original series White Collar), Adam Rodriguez/”Tito” (of CSI: Miami), Kevin Nash/”Tarzan” (of professional wrestling fame), and Joe Manganiello/”Big Dick Richie” (of True Blood), Mike and Adam put on several ensemble and individual numbers to the “ooo” and “ahh” delight of the audience (though, probably not to the delight of the reluctant boyfriends in the crowd – hey guys, consider it free dance lessons for your ladies?)
The story carefully intertwines sex and flesh with moments of friendship and brotherhood, business and pleasure, dreams and reality. Bonds are strengthened, hearts are broken, and characters evolve as questions remain – it’s a satisfying film full of coy moments that draw gasps of “what!” from crowd members dissatisfied that the show disappeared long enough for the story to progress.
Channing Tatum, again, delivers a performance that solidifies him with leading man status (as if The Vow and 21 Jump Street haven’t already done that this year) – it shouldn’t be long before he’s improving and moving into award territory with his career – if this role doesn’t accomplish at least a nod for him, as Tatum is at his best. He’s vulnerable and humble (yet cocky and funny) in all the right moments – evoking laughs and empathy – with just the right balance. It may help that established co-star McConaughey plays well beside and opposite Tatum and is the apparent leader on and off the screen – there’s even a glimpse of what McConaughey could bring to a villainous role. Then again, Tatum could be benefiting from flashing skin with better acting chops and dance moves he hasn’t displayed since Step Up (2006).
Magic Mike is, for the most part, a visually pleasing film (and not just because of the scantily clad men and women in it). The only negative feedback should be directed to the outdoor scenes, which seem grainy and discolored (though, it could be intentional, it looks/feels cheap). Then again, those moments add a sense of realism to the movie and allow for a brilliant lens flare during a panning shot in front of the ocean. Speaking of the ocean – much of the sound in Magic Mike is from a direct source (ocean waves, seagulls, crickets, etc.), adding yet another layer of authenticity to the story. The music in the film will be recognizable (yet perhaps cliché, yet fitting – “It’s Raining Men”) to fans of many genres and decades and works to encompass all who flock to see a bunch of bronzed buttocks’.
Magic Mike is rated R for sexual content, some graphic nudity, language, and some drug use (see trailer below).