Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Screenplay by Reid Carolin
Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Cody Horn, Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Matthew McConaughey
How long is Magic Mike? 110 minutes.
What is Magic Mike rated? R for pervasive sexual content, brief graphic nudity, language and some drug use.
Though entertaining, ‘Magic Mike’
never quite feels comfortable in its own skin.
Channing Tatum. Only a few years ago he was just “that guy from those dance movies” who had also turned in solid performances in (little seen) films like Havoc and A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints. Since then, he has been on a meteoric rise (in the words of Liz Lemon) to stardom, starring in four films in 2012 alone. Magic Mike is his second collaboration with filmmaker Steven Soderbergh to be released this year, the first being the underappreciated Haywire.
The genesis of Magic Mike came from conversations between Tatum and Soderbergh while filming Haywire. Tatum let slip that for about two years he was a male stripper while he struggled to become an actor. Soderbergh thought it would make for a good movie so he enlisted the help of screenwriter Reid Carolin and the three men began formulating a story around an all-male dance revue. While Tatum may have inspired the story, the only real life similarity between Tatum and the film is the male stripping; everything else is purely fictional.
Mike (Tatum) is just a regular, hard-working guy. He juggles several different jobs, including construction, custom car audio installation and stripping several nights a week. While his life is pretty sweet, his dream is to save up enough money to start his own custom furniture company. But, with the economy the way it is, he just has to wait for the banks to offer him the competitive interest rates he’s looking for (read: his credit sucks and a stack of one dollar bills isn’t too enticing to loan officers).
During one of his many roofing jobs, Mike meets Adam (Alex Pettyfer), a kid who doesn’t know the first thing about construction and appears to only have one change of clothes. Adam is crashing with his sister, Brooke (Cody Horn), having recently failed out of college. When Adam runs into Mike a few nights later, Mike invites him to Club Xquisite where he’s dancing that night as Magic Mike and says he may be able to make a couple extra bucks helping out the talent. Lured by the promise of money, Adam agrees and meets club owner Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), a former dancer-turned-businessman.
When one of the dancers becomes incapacitated, Adam, dubbed “The Kid” by Mike, steps in and makes a serious impression on Dallas. Adam is blinded by the stage lights, screaming women and wad of cash he walks away with at the end of the night. Meanwhile, Mike is scaling back his time at the club, preferring instead to hang out with Brooke and focus on getting his business off the ground. But as Adam becomes more and more lost in the hard partying lifestyle that comes with his new occupation, he involves Mike and threatens the future he’s worked so hard for.
In comparison to most offerings being released in recent years, Magic Mike is a decent, if uneven, movie with a very strong cast. The problem is this is a film by Steven Soderbergh, one of the most talented directors working today and when compared to his other films, Magic Mike is pretty disappointing. Soderbergh is a master of telling complex, interwoven stories and has a brilliant eye for stunning visuals. Films like Traffic, Out of Sight and Ocean’s Eleven demonstrate his ability to turn intelligent scripts into films that are both entertaining and mentally stimulating.
Magic Mike is possibly Soderbergh’s least good movie (sorry, “worst” and “Soderbergh” should never be in the same sentence). Pulling double-duty as his own director of photography, Soderbergh does try to give the movie some visual flare (bathing the external scenes in warm, golden hue to contrast with the harsh lights of the club interior), but he never settles on whether it is a silly comedy or serious film. Though the dance scenes are hilarious and endlessly entertaining, the rest of the film seems trite and beneath him. It falls somewhere between the tone of his small, experimental films (Bubble, The Girlfriend Experience) and his pure Hollywood fare (Ocean’s Thirteen).
The film’s cast is quite solid, especially Tatum who shows off the moves he learned while being a dancer. His emotional performance is not as strong as he’s been in the past, but he still oozes confidence and charm which is exactly what this character needs. Stealing the show, though, is McConaughey as a walking erection. Dallas loves his work, nay, his work is his life. Turning women on and making money is the reason he gets up in the early afternoon. McConaughey has become a bit of a wildcard lately, giving surprisingly enjoyable performances in roles for which you might not immediately picture him. Here he creates another wonderful on-screen persona and is by far the most entertaining part of the movie.
Magic Mike has a lot going for it but could have been a lot better. It has genuinely entertaining moments and a few impressive performances, but overall it doesn’t live up to its promise.
Matthew Newlin lives in St. Louis, Missouri and has been a film critic for over six years. He has written for numerous online media outlets, including “Playback:STL” and “The Weissman Report.” He holds a Master’s of Education in Higher Education from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and is an Assistant Director of Financial Aid. A lifelong student of cinema, his passion for film was inherited from his father who never said “No, you can’t watch that.”