Directed by: Steven Soderbergh.
Starring: Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, Cody Horn, Olivia Munn, Alex Pettyfer, and Joe Manganiello.
The Plot: He’s a roofer by day and a hustler by night. When Mike (Channing Tatum) discovers a kid (Alex Pettyfer) who may have what it takes to be part of Tampa’s hottest male dancer review, he takes the kid under his wing. But an overprotective sister, (Cody Horn) and a sleazy boss (Matthew McConaughey) complicate the relationship and force Mike to reevaluate his own direction in life.
The Film: So I wanted to do something different with my review for Magic Mike. Under normal circumstances I would come up with a crafty headline (in Magic Mike’s case I was going to run with Magic Mike: The Full Manatee – because of the correlation between this film and Peter Cattaneo’s 1997 Oscar-nominated male stripper film, and uh… Florida’s thriving manatee population) and then bomb through 1,000 words trying to extrapolate the underlying textures and themes of a movie that’s essentially about steak and eggs.
But since I managed to drag a few “ladies” to the screening with me this week, (I’d like to say it was out of charity, but it certainly had much more to do with insulation than anything else – as comfortable as I am with my heterosexuality, I still felt the need to put five female friends between myself and the crags of steaming man-flesh plastered all over this film) and since these ladies are, indeed, the target audience Channing Tatum’s intimidating cannons are aimed at… let’s let them have their say shall we?
To spare them the anguish that Z-list celebrity film critic status can bring you, (I can’t tell you how many hate emails I get every year… it’s almost up to five now) we changed their names so that they could keep some level of anonymity. And since this is Magic Mike we’re going to be discussing, stage names seemed more appropriate than anything else.
Chardonnay: Magic Mike……Wooowzers! Channing Tatum as Magic Mike has some serious skills, he is an amazing dancer. Miss Chardonnay would have loved if the whole movie was just him dancing…..all night long. Going into the movie I didn’t have high expectations for his acting skills, but I think this was one of his better films. I definitely prefer him in a comedy compared to some of his previous more serious roles. My only complaint is about Cody Horn as Brooke, I found her character annoying and boring, even though she is the protective older sister I expected someone a little more fun and comedic in her role. I think this is a go see for a girls night! Leave those husbands and kids behind and go have some fun with Magic Mike!
Blanche: What I expected: Absolutely nothing other than men taking their clothes off. What I got: Exactly that. What I thought: I thought it was pretty good. Although, if it was meant to be anything other than a chance to ogle half naked sexy men on screen, like if there was a serious underlying message on the ups and downs, the ins and outs of the seedy world of stripping, it was completely lost on me. All I saw and/or cared to see was the rock hard abs, but I could have done without the pump.
Lexxus: Although I was beyond excited to see the movie, I was really trying not to get my hopes up. however. it exceeded my expectations by a long shot. 80% of the movie my eyes were bugged out, elbowing Bambi sitting next to me, our jaws on the floor with the occasionally outburst of laughter and clapping. Channing rocked the roll of Magic Mike and his previous employment as a real life stripper paid off! His hiney alone is something blessed to behold. I’ve never seen a more perfect set of cheeks. Magic Mike is a charismatic guy and every lady in the theater walked out a HUGE fan of his. The club scenes were spot on to what you’d stumble into in Tampa Bay, and Matthew McConaughey did a stellar job of the club owner/host; past his prime – a little greasy, but still able to woo the women. However, there is one scene that McConaughey lovers will get a hunk of his glory.
Tawny: Going into it I expected (more like hoped) to see what any girl in that theater was looking forward to, hot guys in skimpy attire and some sexy dance moves. Magic Mike definitely delivers! I thought the “strip” scenes were done really well without going over the top or becoming too cheesy.
Bambi: When I found out that Channing Tatum got down to 5% body fat for this movie, I just had to see what that looked like! and I wasn’t disappointed. While I have never been his biggest fan – although just recently I did enjoy him in The Vow – this movie has turned me into a colossal fan. He seemed unscripted and charismatic in the movie, maybe his dabbling in exotic dancing helped. I found myself leaning over to Lexxus every time he started dancing and saying “I like where this is going” and I did, a lot. I appreciated that when he wrote the screenplay/script he or someone realized that actual penis isn’t very exciting to see, and while you do get a glimpse of penis, “the penis” doesn’t take center stage of the movie! Instead I would say his abs and arms do. While I have always liked Matthew McConaughey in his other movies, in this movie he was more of the Les Grossman of Tropic Thunder, than the usual Matthew McConaughey, airstream-dwelling-surfing-fool we have grown to love and drool over. My advice is go, you too will like were this movie is going.
Dick Sargent: I can only imagine that if Warner Brothers had released Magic Mike in 3D, the crazy amount of wadded-up, White Diamonds-scented dollar bills that would have been hurled at theater screens across the country.
If I had any reservations about going to a movie about hot boys dancing on stage in elephant undies – and I did – they would only dissipate with the inclusion of Steven Soderbergh’s hefty monicker under the title. Soderbergh’s name sort of force locates Magic Mike somewhere into the gray-scaled territory between Skinemax and Cinema.
But if Steven had no aspirations toward making a female audience boil in their own theater seats… he failed substantially. There’s a film here – and a damn fine one. Behind all that bronzed ass wiggling, and crotch pawing there’s an honest movie, about an honest guy, who’s less than honest with himself, stuck in a profession built around deception.
Try to force any images of Paul Verhoeven’s Showgirls out of those heads kids, (especially this one) if Magic Mike has a cinematic touchstone it’s with John Badham’s Saturday Night Fever.
Saturday Night Fever tossed John Travolta kicking and thrusting into super-stardom, and though some of us may have marginalized Channing Tatum as a flunky, and fodder for tween dance movies and Nicholas Sparks adaptations, I can’t help but think that post-Mike, the kid’s stock is going to rise.
We’ll let the Dancing With the Stars crowd decide who’s got the better steps – Tony Manero or Magic Mike – but in the interim Steven Soderbergh’s made one of his most commercially satisfying, and genuinely entertaining films since he collected Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Julia Roberts together in one film and called the precious mess Ocean’s Eleven.
There’s a terrific scene in Magic Mike where Matt McConaughey’s Dallas, (old-school Dazed and Confused fans might see a bit of Wooderson in Dallas, aged, but still sporting that million-dollar grin under a veneer of grease and greed – this might be the man David Wooderson became after he gave up chasing high school girls… still a pimp, but pimping six packs and hot dogs instead of skirts) is holding a party celebrating Club Xuisite’s penetration into the Miami nightclub market. The windows of his house are taped-up, and there’s a hurricane raging outside the party. Mike phones his booty call (Olivia Munn, finally perfect for something) to escape the celebration, but she turns him down. She’s a psychology major who studies Mike as if he’s a proto-human, or worse, a project for her thesis – wanting little more from the male dancer than his body. As the events of the party turn druggy, then promiscuous, and the tone grows heavier and more claustrophobic, we can feel Mike’s plight.
Mike’s a surrogate.
A surrogate son to McConaughey’s Dallas, (his possible, admittedly sleazy, future) and surrogate father to Alex Pettyfer’s Adam, (his very sleazy past) as well as surrogate dildo to the women in his life – metaphorically and literally. There’s every indication that he’s better than his stripper cohorts, or at least has the desire to be better, but he’s stuck. And not just trapped by the hurricane raging outside the party. If the kid’s got one talent in life it’s taking his clothes off to music, which is another trap all its own.
As the lovely Miss Chardonay, Lexxus, Blanche, Tawny and Bambi attested to firmly above… nobody takes it off better than Channing Tatum’s Mike.
If we were as interested in an under-appreciated artist and his desire to create clever furniture we would have bought a ticket to that movie. Instead, Steven Soderbergh gives us the other movie. The one where the under-appreciated artist drops his pants in public and humps the cheering faces of Club Xuisite’s paying female customers. That he doesn’t try to get too heavy with it is a testament to Steven’s ability to read the energy of the material.
What could have been Boogie Nights, with the homophobic hate-beatings, the gratuitous sex, violence, and drug-injected recklessness of the sex industry, isn’t under Soderbergh’s direction. Some of that stuff is here – of course it has to be – but it never overpowers the optimistic flavor of Magic Mike.
Maybe strippers can have their cake and eat it too…?
The Verdict: Want to know the other headline I had dreamed up for this Magic Mike review? Sure you do. Magic Mike: An Oscar Meyer Winner. And it is a winner.
I can’t wait to see what Soderbergh and Channing Tatum (they’re an official “couple” now) cook up next.