It would be easy to write Channing Tatum off and assume he’s just a good looking beefcake dude. It would be easy to write off a movie about male strippers and assume it’s another piece of campy cheese like Showgirls, but with big old swingin’ dongs. But when Steven Soderbergh makes a movie about male strippers, I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. And it kind of pays off with Magic Mike.
Channing Tatum’s Mike is an entrepreneur. He designs and builds custom furniture, he works on construction sites, he helps manage a club, he’s in event management, he has a detailing business… And he’s a stripper. One day, while roofing a house, he meets Alex Pettyfer’s Adam, newly arrived in Florida, broke, unemployed and sleeping on his sister’s couch.
Soon enough, Adam is working alongside Mike at his night job, dancing in a male strip club run by Matthew McConaughey’s Dallas. I remember when Magic Mike came out, all the positive talk revolved around two things; The fact that it was way better than anyone expected a movie about male strippers to be, and that McConaughey nailed it. Now that I’ve finally seen it, both things have been well and truly proven.
As Dallas, McConaughey is their boss, their teacher and their mentor. And through all the bravado, fatherly advice and hubris, he lets just enough vulnerability, greed and obvious fear of inadequacy sneak through to make him the most entertaining character in Magic Mike.
The dances and performances of Tatum and the other strippers are just the right level of amateur and bad. If any other director made Magic Mike, the star would have spent months in choreography training and the minor characters would have all been played by professional dancers. There’s nothing professional or polished about these guys. They’re dodgy losers who aren’t qualified to do anything else, so they’ve developed their own half assed routines and characters over the years. Even Tatum, who got famous through the Step Up movies, ads an awkwardness to most of his routines.
The setting is perfect too. From all reports, Florida really does seem to be America’s asshole. On paper, it’s paradise. Great weather, great beaches, great nightlife. But every depiction of the state makes it seem like there’s barely a layer of cheap glitter that only covers the tiniest bit of the grime.
The only real weak spot in Magic Mike is the cheesy and obvious romantic story between Mike and Adam’s sister Brooke, played by Cody Horn. If you don’t predict it the second Adam casually mentions living with his sister, the movie makes sure to shove it down your throat the first time Mike and Brooke meet and don’t like each other. This lazy story device is only highlighted even more by the fact that Cody Horn is a pretty bad actor.
It’s a classic, proven story. Like Goodfellas or Boogie Nights, a young dude is given the keys to paradise, he lives it up until it all comes crashing down, It’s funny to see such a grand structure used to tell such a small, inconsequential story. And I mean that as a compliment, I really enjoyed this version of the story where the stakes are so much lower. The contrast makes for a great new perspective on such an old story.
Directed By – Steven Soderbergh
Written By – Reid Carolin