Saturday, July 7, 2012

Movie Review: "Magic Mike"

When I first heard that Steven Soderbergh would direct Magic Mike, a movie loosely based on Channing Tatum's early days as a male stripper, I was intrigued. And as actors like Matthew McConaughey, True Blood's Joe Manganiello, CSI Miami's Adam Rodriguez, Alex Pettyfer, and my favorite, Matthew Bomer (White Collar), aside from the obvious reasons to be excited, I worried that the movie might turn into a Chippendales' version of Showgirls or, heaven forbid, a modern-day version of Christopher Atkins' 1983 male stripper debacle, A Night in Heaven.

Happily, my fears were not realized. While slightly formulaic (but did it really matter?), Magic Mike is neither campy nor particularly raunchy, but it is a very enjoyable, fun movie with a lot of heart. Oh, yeah, and there are the scenes in the strip club as well, where the actors get their chance to show off their dance moves in a variety of routines—soldiers, boxer, b-boy, a living Ken doll, fireman, doctor, Tarzan, etc.—clad in little more than underwear or thongs. And those scenes definitely brought out strip club-like reactions from members of the audience in our movie theater, but no dollar bills left anyone's hands.

Mike (Channing Tatum) is a roofer and car detailer by day, promoter and stripper by night. He performs at the Xquisite Male Revue in Tampa, owned by the older but not necessarily wiser, cowboy poetry-spouting Dallas (Matthew McConaughey). What Mike really wants to do is design "custom furniture" (coffee tables made from things like fire extinguishers and other equipment) and says he views stripping as a means to that end. When he meets Adam (Alex Pettyfer) at a roofing job, he takes the younger man under his wing and indoctrinates him into the stripping world (but not in the way you're thinking, sorry), and the opportunities totally hook Adam. (Of course, it doesn't hurt either that Mike finds himself attracted to Adam's sister, the no-nonsense, practical Brooke (Cody Horn)).

But as Adam becomes more enamored with the life, and Mike starts to realize that the plans he has for his future may not be the most solid and those he trusted may not be the most trustworthy, he faces a crisis of conscience. Does stripping define him? Is this just a means to an end or his whole existence? While there is no earth-shattering plot development, the story and the colorful personalities of the characters definitely keep you hooked for the entire movie.

While acting in a movie he co-produced and one loosely based on his own life may be easier, Channing Tatum is definitely coming into his own as an actor. He has a twinkle in his eye and an immense sex appeal that comes across as part swagger, part sensitivity. While Pettyfer as the stripping neophyte is definitely believable, he never comes across as more than just a pretty face; he seems fairly detached from his role. Bomer, Manganiello, Rodriguez, and Kevin Nash bring a true sense of amusement and dedication to their roles as Mike's stripper colleagues, and McConaughey brings a sleazy yet sly magnetism to his ethically questionable role.

Is this a cinematic masterpiece? No. But it is a heck of a lot of fun, punctuated by the obvious appeal of its actors, and the respect and heart of the plot. Why go to a strip club and pay a more expensive cover charge when you can just watch Magic Mike?

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