Surprising as it may seem, Steven Soderbergh’s “Magic Mike” isn’t actually an uplifting affirmation of the virtues of female empowerment. Most of the women in this movie about a seasoned male stripper who takes a young protégé under his wing behave very badly. This is also a much grittier movie than the target audience is being led to expect from the trailers, which are selling cotton candy with pecs.
Tatum plays Mike, a thirty year old male stripper in a club owned by Dallas, played by a shockingly buff Matthew McConaughey. Mike has dreams of starting up a custom furniture company, which aren’t coming true. He works construction days, and meets Adam (Alex Pettyfer). The audience is going to smell Adam as a loser with an attitude problem right away, but Mike is sure he sees something in him. Before long Adam is working as a male stripper, billed as “The Kid,” and the patrons love him.
Adam also loves the sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll lifestyle, much to the horror of his older sister Brooke (Cody Horn). She doesn’t trust Mike, so of course he develops a thing for her. What starts out as an ostensible buddy movie eventually develops into a story about Mike outgrowing the business at the same time Adam grows into it. Mike may be made for bigger and better. Adam isn’t.
Tatum (“21 Jump Street”) is believable as Mike, a character the audience will flipflop on, but this movie is not going to hurt his burgeoning career. McConaughey, in the midst of an impressive career resurgence, is effective as hell as Dallas–so much so that the audience may want to string him up by the end. The other dancers are played by a beefcake lineup that includes Joe Manganiello (“One Tree Hill,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “True Blood,” “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”), Matt Bomer (“White Collar”), Adam Rodriguez (“Ugly Betty,” “CSI: Miami”) and Kevin Nash (“The Longest Yard,” “River of Darkness,” “Rock of Ages”). They represent a spectrum of physical types and generally have little to do but look buff naked.
Channing Tatum, who did work as a male stripper in Florida for an eight month stint early in his career, co-produced this movie, which certainly doesn’t glamorize the job. The women in this movie are anything but empowered, and you could make the argument that this is a misogynistic movie from the get-go. Certainly Brooke is the only sympathetic female character in the movie, and this could be breakout performance for Cody Horn, who up to now has mainly done TV.
Soderbergh’s distinctive style is all over this, right down to his tinting almost every daytime exterior yellow. The movie is consistently well strung together, though short on momentum. The script, by Reid Carolin, is definitely grittier, edgier and smarter than the trailers are implying.
“Magic Mike” is rated R for perfectly good reasons, including nudity, sexual situations, language and onscreen drug use.
“Magic Mike” is now playing at Capital District theatres including the Bow Ties Cinemas Movieland in Schenectady, the Regal Cinemas Crossgates Stadium 18 & IMAX, the Regal Cinemas Latham Circle Mall 10, The Regal Cinemas Clifton Park Stadium 10 & RPX, the Rotterdam Square Cinema, the Regal Cinemas Colonie Center Stadium 13 and the Regal Cinemas East Greenbush 8.