Movie Review: Magic Mike
When I first saw the trailer for Magic Mike, I thought it looks tremendously bad, as in Showgirls bad, and I immediately dismissed it. However, when I found out that Steven Soderbergh was directing, I was really scratching my head. Why would this well-respected director waste his time with rubbish? Turns out that Magic Mike is a movie that far exceeded my expectations.
By now, it is well known that actor Channing Tatum worked a brief stint as a stripper. The film is loosely based on some of the experiences he had during that time. Tatum plays Magic Mike, one of the stars of a male revue in Tampa. He picks up random construction jobs by day, but the real money and fun begins when he steps on stage every night. When asked why he does such a thing, he replies, “Women, money and a good time.” Indeed, he has a steady rotation of women he wakes up next to each morning.
The guys in the revue also really do seem to be having a good time. It’s such a sharp contrast to how female strip clubs are depicted. The stereotypical scene is dank and darkly lit, featuring sad looking women slowly slinking about. At club Xquisite, it’s all about thumping music, high energy and screaming adoration from a sea of women. If you’ve got the goods to show off, what’s not to like?
Mike takes pity on a 19-year-old slacker named Adam (Alex Pettyfer) he met on a day job, and introduces him to backstage world of male stripping, where men nonchalantly use a pump to enhance a certain part of the anatomy and fuss over the seams of their minimal costumes. Adam literally finds himself thrust in the spotlight when one of the men can’t perform, and is quickly dubbed “the kid” when he gives a positively awful (but highly entertaining) performance. However, it got the crowd worked up enough that he is taken under Mike’s wing to learn the tricks of the trade, and he is immediately sucked into the lifestyle. When the two starting palling around, Mike finds he is drawn to Adam’s sister Brooke (Cody Horn), who is not enthusiastic about her brother’s choice of career.
Bar owner Dallas (Matthew McConaughey) is a shrewd narcissist who swaggers around and keeps the strippers under his thumb. His standard evening wear is a cowboy hat, leather pants and a leather vest that ensures a good view of his ripped abs. McConaughey is absurdly good in this role. He has that “dirty hot” thing down pat, and when he spars with Mike, it’s quite fierce. He also provides one of the funniest moments of the film when he wears a ridiculous aerobic get-up for a dance practice session with Adam and the other men. Only McConaughey could deliver the line “now go F&%# that mirror like you mean it” without one trace of irony. The dance performances are also a riot, as the men perform cheesy themed skits dressed as Tarzan, firemen, policemen and soldiers.
Adam gets a little full of himself in the third act, and is drawn to a more seedy, dangerous part of the business, which forces Mike to take a reality check. The golden handcuffs from the business have kept him tied to it much longer than he intended, and he re-evaluates his life and if he wants to shed his party-boy persona and take a chance on something real with Brooke.
The acting is solid, though McConaughey and Tatum are irrefutably the stars. Horn is appealing as the love interest. She’s fresh and natural (almost virginal) in comparison to Mike’s frequent booty call Joanna (Olivia Munn) who is edgy and overtly sexy. Joe Manganiello and Matt Bomer are curiously underutilized, serving mainly as background eye candy.
Reid Carolin wrote the script, which perfectly balances comedy with drama. The dialogue is authentic, and you really do feel like you are seeing behind the scenes of the business, much like Boogie Nights immersed you in the world of porn. Soderbergh continues to choose interesting projects, and as crazy as it sounds, this will likely be remembered as one of his better films.