If you go down to your local multiplex today, you’ll have no trouble finding the screen that’s showing Magic Mike. Look for groups of giggling women followed by small pockets of nervous men. This, as we all know, is a film about male strippers that feature no shortage of muscular flesh. Drawing from his early experiences working as a male stripper, Channing Tatum has nursed this project from the ground up as its producer and star. He displays an impressive arsenal of moves that are sure to get the attention of the ladies, while leaving the straight male demographic uncertain of how to react. If you’re watching this film purely for the beefcake factor, you will not be disappointed. But you’ll also be getting a little something extra in the mix.
Tatum plays Mike, the lead dancer in Tampa’s hottest all-male dance revue. Run by ringmaster Matthew McConaughey, the show is filled with familiar TV faces like True Blood’s Joe Manganiello, CSI’s Adam Rodriguez and pro wrestler Kevin Nash. Everyone is buff and they are pretty convincing as a troupe of male strippers.
While working one of his numerous non-stripping jobs, Mike meets Adam (Alex Pettyfer), a 19 year-old kid who he begins to mentor in the way of stripping. An inherently nice guy, Mike dreams of starting a business where he converts old junk into coffee tables: y’know, in the way that all movie prostitutes are aspiring photojournalists or teachers. It’s a common story in the canon of exploitation movies but like Mike, the film is so well meaning that it never comes across as seedy.
Behind the camera is Oscar winner Steven Soderbergh, a director so prolific that he’s put out no fewer than nine features since the beginning of 2008. Known for his wildly eclectic choice of projects that flit between genres and subject matters, he brings a veracity to this film that sets it apart from other films of this type (think: Striptease or Showgirls). The relationships between characters really pop and there’s great chemistry between Tatum and his protégée’s big sister (Cody Horn, doing a great job filling that Julia Stiles-shaped hole in our hearts).
But the actors who really shine in this movie are Tatum and McConaughey, two stars who are enjoying something of a career renaissance. With his turn in here and in 21 Jump Street, Tatum has moved beyond the cookie-cutter meathead in GI Joe and now has a good line in playing sensitive, inarticulate men. McConaughey –finally given a good reason to take off his shirt- continues his good form that started with Tropic Thunder continued with The Lincoln Lawyer and Killer Joe. He has this certain charisma that makes it hard to root for him as the lead in a romantic comedy, but if you give him any other role, he’ll knock it out of the park for you.
When things start getting slightly out of hand for Pettyfer and Tatum, the story does take a turn for the predictable, but under Soderbergh’s focused direction, Magic Mike never feels false. Audiences will come for the muscles, but they’ll stay for the good movie.
Note: As mentioned, there’s a lot of stripping in this movie, but it is a 15 certificate. So don’t be disappointed like the girl in the seat next to us, when you realise that Channing Tatum’s not going to reveal the insides of his trunks.