This is every woman’s fantasy played out from a small stage on a big screen. It’s all about the hip thrusts, Velcro pants, novelty man thongs, and bodies cut like ancient Greek statues. It’s a film perfect for bored housewives and unsatisfied girlfriends. And even straight guys with an evening of nothing to do should see it if for nothing else than an education in how to please a woman.
But there’s more too Magic Mike than perfectly chiselled men gyrating naked across the screen. And in fact there’s a decent and quite serious storyline buried underneath all the body oil and dollar bills, which should come as no surprise when Oscar-winning Director Steven Soderbergh sits behind the camera. This is a director whose body of work is often centred round corruption, greed, and struggle with award-winning films like Traffic, and the Oscar nominated Erin Brockovich under his belt. And who can forget the highly entertaining and action filled Oceans Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen that although not as dramatic still centre on similar issues just in a lighter-hearted way. On the surface Magic Mike is about a young guy Adam (Alex Pettyfer) who stumbles into the world of male stripping, taken under the wang I mean wing of Magic Mike (Channing Tatum) a thirty-something year old stripper from Tampa. But the sudden flow of money tucked in his man thong and the promise of making it big in Miami sets him on a reckless path which Magic Mike wants to get out of. But beneath that, in what I think is the most interesting part of the narrative is the part that is hugely over-looked. There’s this whole other storyline with Magic Mike outside of stripping, which sees him trying to branch out on his own and start-up a custom furniture design business. This could have been explored a lot more but disappointingly was merely glanced at, used only to define Mikes (Tatum) character which resulted in a weak storyline. But really, no ones thinking about heart warming storylines and intellectual dialogue when they decide to see Magic Mike. And it delivers exactly what it advertises. Still, for a film made with a budget of $7 million, making an estimated domestic $91,850,000 so far, Magic Mike has an art house, independent film feel to it. It’s shot in a way that appears candid, and feels incredibly naturalistic and unrehearsed and it’s what I like most about it. It’s not glamorized, if anything showing the unattractive and unsatisfying side of it and unlike most Hollywood Blockbusters it doesn’t wrap up all loose ends and deliver it wrapped with a bow. It actually makes me want to know what happens afterwards. Not everything is spoon fed.
The cast, with the exception of Cody Horn (Brooke) who plays Mikes love interest and Adam’s sister were cast undoubtedly first for their physique. Aside from Alex Pettyfer, Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey the rest of the stripping troupe have about five lines between them and could have been picked off the street instead of the A-list. No acting credits needed. And they were all incredible eye candy. Alex Pettyfer is perfect as the wayward teen providing both a fine physique and acting chops to boot, with palpable sibling chemistry between him and Cody Horne who gives the only performance without taking clothes off. But the show stealer is Channing Tatum. It’s clear he has a background in dance and is incredible on stage taking inspiration from his own past.
HAHA! He’s come along way since Chan Crawford.
But it’s his performance off the dance floor that is more interesting and most engaging. Tatum plays serious well. His performance in A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints being probably his best and most memorable performance for me. There’s no doubt he exudes charm and that fills the screen but he is also an incredible actor and deserves recognition for that not just for his perfectly sculpted abs. This is a great platform for Channing Tatum, not simply as a performer but as producer too; with this being his fourth film title as producer and another two in pre-production. It will be interesting to see if he ventures further and tries his hand at directing at some point. It seems the way a lot of actors go these days.
This is not the first film Tatum and Soderbergh have worked on together, having done Haywire in 2011, and it will not be the last, with The Bitter Pill out next year. Could this be the next great Actor/Director partnership? I have no complaints so far.