Magic Mike (2012) Directed by Steven Soderbergh. Starring: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, & Cody Horn. IMDB says: “A male stripper teaches a younger performer how to party, pick up women, and make easy money. ”
Channing Tatum stars as the titular character, a stripper living in Tampa who befriends 19-year-old Adam (Alex Pettyfer) who is living with his older sister Brooke (Cody Horn) while trying to figure out what to do with his life after losing his scholarship. Adam joins the team of male strippers at Xquisite after an exciting night hanging out with Mike shows him the benefits of the profession-easy money, girls, adoration, and a good time. The movie begins with the promise of a good time too, jumping into the plot with plenty of humor to accompany the dance montages. It’s when the film takes a break from all that stripping when the real drama of the plot takes shape, and we see a character that is caught between the excessive yet hell of a good time life of a stripper and the higher ambitions of a entrepreneur with a passion for creating unique, crafted furniture.
The glue to Magic Mike is in the lead and inspiration of the film, Channing Tatum. He completely commits to the role embodying his past lifestyle. From the hilarious, fun dance routines to the emotional duality of his character, you can see how he knows exactly what it all requires. Mike doesn’t hate the stripping lifestyle necessarily; he just wants to do something that he’s passionate about. Throughout the movie you see his progression over the course of a summer, as his mentoring of Adam, or “The Kid” as he’s more often referred, lead him to personal realizations about his lifestyle and goals.
I bought that progression but I just wish it had been built on a more stable idea. From the screenplay it feels like the writer went “Mike wants to leave the stripping profession to pursue a career in (insert random field here)” without actually showing any of that passion on screen. Mike goes on and on about how all he wants to do is create custom furniture, but you never see where that dream originated or even get a scene where he’s actually producing anything. It came off as a bit lazy and noncommittal. Building furniture wasn’t an important part of his characterization (versus, say, Jacob in Like Crazy) but just a career to pin his ambition.
That said, this film doesn’t need to rest on the furniture thing. It’s a really fun film, that feeds off the behind the scenes look of an industry you rarely see depicted. I wouldn’t doubt it being realistic either considering Tatum’s influence. But this is not exactly the movie that you see in the trailers. I would almost venture to say you might be disappointed if you expected the movie that the trailers depicted. Sure there’s plenty of eye candy but Soderbergh’s direction makes this feel like a much more serious film. By that I mean this isn’t something like Step Up or Honey which this could have easily been with a lesser director.
It’s filmed beautifully with his usual attention to color tone, while leading the cast purposefully through the story. The dance scenes are filmed with expert excitement, while daytime scenes benefited from lots of long, static or slow moving tracking shots to tone it down. No one in the cast really stands out quite like Tatum, save for maybe Matthew McConaughey as the club owner, but no one is putting in a poor effort either (Lindsay complained about Pettyfer’s accent but I never noticed anything.. I sort of remember him not speaking that much throughout though).
I enjoyed much of the dialogue which centered on realistic back and forth conversations that progressed the story and revealed character’s motivations without using tedious exposition. The story sneaks in a slow-burning build up between Mike and Brooke but the romance angle doesn’t take over the film. Tatum and Horn have decent chemistry, although on a side note, he seemed to have more with his booty call friend played by Olivia Munn.
It’s a little too obvious to resonate, but constructed well enough that there’s plenty to enjoy. The problem with that is it doesn’t really leave much of an impression after leaving the theater. Magic Mike is a fun film to watch, and is able to connect the audience to the mindset of a stripper, but it’s not much beyond that.