Many months ago I heard about a movie about male strippers that would be starring some of Hollywood’s “hottest” men: Matthew McConaughey, Channing Tatum and Matt Bomer. I dismissed the movie as something I’d never see, but then I saw the first trailer. Maybe this was something I wouldn’t mind seeing. If the trailer was to be believed, the movie would be about a young man following his dream of starting his own custom furniture business...his journey just so happened to involve him making money by taking off his clothes. Plus the film seemed to be pretty funny. For the past few weeks I’ve gotten crazy looks from people because I mentioned that I thought Magic Mike looked pretty funny. Was I wrong? Was the movie not really funny, but instead a dark and dirty exposé of the seedy world of male strippers? I found out Friday...
Friday afternoon Auditorium 9 at the Wynnsong 16 in Auburn was transformed into a dark den of cougars waiting to feast their eyes on a whole bunch of man meat. I’m not kidding when I say I was one of two guys in the entire theater. The other guy’s wife made him go, I just wanted to see a bunch of dudes shake their asses (eye roll)...I must say I really was concerned I had made a mistake and would be in for two hours of nude dudes, but thankfully there weren’t any bare penises (peni?) to be found in the film.
I think what really attracted me to the movie was how director Steven Soderbergh had managed to put a fresh spin on the familiar “stripper with a heart of gold” story. Make no mistake, Mike is a man with a dream. He wants to give up his life of manual labor and stripping to start his own custom furniture business. His custom furniture business is equivalent to Candy or Destiny’s medical school education...each does what they have to in order to make their dream a reality. Not all roads to The American Dream are paved in gold; some take twists & turns through dark alleys and down lonely back roads.
Perhaps the biggest surprise many people will have watching the movie is Channing Tatum. He seems to be “the man” right now. After the success of 21 Jump Street, Paramount allegedly decided to push back G.I. Joe: Retaliation in order to reshoot the movie in order to capitalize on Tatum’s rising star. I’m annoyed Paramount would do such a thing as I don’t think it fair to the director to make them change their vision, but there’s no denying Tatum is proving to be a big box office draw. His performance in Magic Mike proves he’s capable of being a leading man in a more serious movie, so Paramount could be laughing all the way to the bank.
Tatum’s performance as “Magic Mike” isn’t exactly Oscar worthy, but I think it’s a step in the right direction toward proving he’s more than another pretty face. Tatum’s performance shows depth and never once was I thinking, “Man this goofball is terrible”. In fact on my drive home I was amazed at how invested I was in the movie for the first half or so. I almost felt as if I was watching a documentary portraying a day in the life of a male stripper.
Tatum is charming as Mike. If I’m being honest, I could imagine a male stripper with a chiseled body and killer dance moves to be a bit of an asshole, but that’s not Mike. He’s just a regular guy trying to save enough money to start his own business. He does what he does because it helps him toward his longer term goals. Sure there are perks (such as women) to his job but he doesn’t ever let the excesses surrounding his lifestyle to become a distraction.
Channing Tatum is fun to watch as Mike, but Matthew McConaughey might be more fun to watch as Dallas. More or less, Dallas is the old timer who serves as a mentor for Mike and the other dancers when it comes to the “Dance Revue”. McConaughey really brings it as Dallas. I’ve never been to a strip club, male or female, but I venture to say that choreographed group numbers aren't done on the regular. The absurdity of this cracks me up. The man behind the madness is Dallas. Watching McConaughey coach up a new dancer in his skimpy outfit gave me a couple big laughs.
One of the great things about the movie for me is that the film develops the minor characters enough that we get insight into their personalities without wasting too much time on them in favor of the main characters. The supporting cast is really good. Kevin Nash is a personal favorite as Tarzan, mainly because I grew up watching him as a wrestler so seeing him in a major Hollywood movie is funny to me. All of the other male strippers are unique and the actors portraying them do a good job of fleshing out their characters with limited screen time and dialogue.
Although my thoughts so far would indicate otherwise, Magic Mike is not a perfect film. I found my interest in the film waning towards the end. It seemed the movie hit a bit of a rut and began to drag along without much happening. Perhaps this was intentional as being stuck in a rut is a theme to be found in the movie, but my guess is the story just lulls just past the half-way point. Thankfully, this is forgivable and the movie finishes fairly strong.
Rating: Pretty Good
Verdict: I really doubt there are many people on the fence about this movie. A lot of people are going to want to see it for the guys; others will avoid it for this reason. Maybe I was imagining things, but it seemed the energy level in the theater dropped as the movie went along...many seemed to come in expecting two hours of naked guys only to find a pretty good story and movie. I think a lot of people will be surprised at how human the story is. Magic Mike is much more a story about people who strip than stripping people. Mike even says as much in the trailer when he tells Brooke, “I’m not my lifestyle”. Is the movie a groundbreaking character study? No, but it also doesn’t sacrifice characters at the expense of excessive nudity and male thrusting (though there’s plenty of thrusting)...Bottom line, I think folks shouldn’t pass up the movie due to preconceived notions. If you’re feeling adventurous, check it out!
Rising Stars: I already mentioned how good Channing Tatum is, but there are a few others who might be names to look out for. Alex Pettyfer is good as Alex. I enjoyed his performance in Magic Mike and really enjoyed watching him in last year’s I Am Number Four. He could be poised for a big break after Magic Mike.
Olivia Munn is also one to keep an eye out for. Geeks already know her from her stint on G4, but I was impressed with her acting skills after seeing her in more than a small bit part like the ones she played in Iron Man 2 and Date Night. In Magic Mike she proved to me she has the talent to be more than another pretty face. She’s also has a role in the new HBO hit, The Newsroom.
Finally, Cody Horn is good as Alex’s older sister, Brooke. Miss Horn’s Brooke serves as the audience’s voice of reason in the film. She questions the career choices of Mike and Alex, asking the questions most of us would have for someone who takes their clothes off for a living. She does all of this without coming across as “high and mighty”. Miss Horn has a nice, down-home charm to her. I’m interested in seeing how her career pans out.
Who Comes Up With This Stuff?: I was really impressed with Magic Mike's writing, from the way the potentially larger than life characters were humanized to the way the personalities of the smaller characters were portrayed in a few lines of dialogue. If IMDb is to be believed, this is the first feature that Reid Carolin has written. His only other writing credit being that of a documentary...told you it felt like a documentary!