Magic Mike is a film that lives up to its promises. It promises plenty of mostly naked men gyrating and dancing and it delivers. It promises a film directed by Steven Soderbergh that is wonderfully shot in the director’s unique style. It even promises attractive women, though not quite as much as the men. On all these things it delivers. Magic Mike promises to look good, and does it ever. In fact it looks so good that looks alone make it not just watchable, but entirely enjoyable. Sadly, looks alone do not make a good film great.
Magic Mike is the story of Mike (Channing Tatum), a male stripper who is just looking for a way out of the life. One day during his day job he runs into Adam (Alex Pettyfer) and through a series of events recruits the young man to join the strip club he works at along with four other strippers (Matt Bomer, wrestler Kevin Nash, Adam Rodriguez, Joe Manganiello) and club owner Dallas (Matthew McConaughey). None too keen of her brother’s new vocation is the love interest of the story, Brooke (Cody Horn), who Mike can’t help falling for despite that fact that she’s as bland as undercooked white rice. The main thrust of the film, loosely based around Tatum’s actual experiences as a male stripper, concerns Mike attempting to start his own business as a furniture designer and realizing the life he leads is not good for him.
It’s actually almost entirely irrelevant as the love story is quickly pushed to the background by the “dance” numbers and antics of the strippers themselves. We all know that Tatum can dance thanks to Step Up, but given a director of Soderbergh’s caliber he delivers a whole new level of performance. The dances are impressive and directed with a style usually missing from most dance films or even musicals in general. Soderburgh weaves a fantastic scene, and his direction is spot on whenever it involves sex, drugs or stripping.
This also applies to almost every performance. Tatum once again proves that he has far more to offer than simply being a dreamboat on screen. Yes, he looks fantastic, but his charm and wit easily shine through all the nakedness and lend his character a credibility other actors would have lost the second their abs (and more) came out. McConaughey isn’t really a revelation of any sort, but if he got any better at playing himself he might cause some sort of paradox. His character is charming, over-the-top, and yet sinister at the same time. Even Pettyfer pulls out his A-game for the film, though his character isn’t given as much of a chance to shine as Tatum’s is.
Unfortunately, the strong performances end on the male side of the film. The men are the draw here, of course, but the ladies could have pulled it together a bit better. While Olvia Munn is tolerable in her small role as Mike’s former love interest Cody Horn seems entirely out of place throughout the film. Tatum is so charming and affable that she can’t keep up with him in any scene and instead decides to simply stare blankly, hoping it will look like she is in deep thought. It doesn’t work, and pretty much ruins the romantic relationship between Mike and Brooke. When you’re out acted by a professional wrestler and Olivia Munn it might be time to try for a new career.
Even with these flaws Magic Mike should be championed for the simple fact that it is 100 percent about looking at half naked men. Movies like this have been coming out involving women since the dawn of cinema, but it’s a rare film that delivers so much eye candy for women. More importantly it treats it as eye candy, almost rejecting the fact that males viewers are in the audience at all — another tradition flipped backwards by the film. Despite not being a feminist film, this might be one of the most female friendly movies put out in years. What’s even more surprising is that unlike romantic comedies it doesn’t feel like it’s pandering.
It’s incredibly hard to stay angry at Magic Mike for its flaws. When the movie is having fun it is fun and that fun carries you over the down parts. It delivers on the naked men, it delivers on the dance numbers, and it delivers again on the naked men. If you’re asking for more out of the film you’re going to have trouble finding it. Maybe not as much trouble as you suspect thanks to Soderbergh’s direction and a healthy does of Tatum charm, but it’s still hiding.