Magic Mike

Directed By: Steven Soderbergh

Starring: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Cody Horn, Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, and Matthew McConaughey

When women saw the Magic Mike movie trailer, I believe they said, a la Liz Lemon on 30 Rock, “I want to go to there.”  My Magic Mike movie experience was a riot, but it wasn’t due to the actual movie.  I arrived at my theater and saw hundreds of women in a line that roped to the theater doors waiting for entry into Magic Mike.  Men wandered around the theater perplexed asking, “What movie are they in line for?  Did the new Spider-Man flick already come out?  What’s a Magic Mike?  Stripper—whaaaa?”  Middle-aged dads took their kids to see Brave while their wives literally ditched them for more adult fare.  A teenage girl in front of me in line tried to sneak in; but when a diligent United Artist employee asked her for her ID to prove that she was 17, the girl walked away shame-faced.  Burn!  I thought to myself—how awesome is this movie going to be if theaters are actually enforcing the “under 17 not admitted without a parent” rule? 

The theater was packed with wall to wall women, except for a couple of men who seemed decidedly uncomfortable.  Clearly their wives had dragged them kicking and screaming to the theater, and they were going to have a hard time explaining to the fellows why they were caught within 1,000 feet of a Magic Mike showing.  The theater was palpable with excitement as groups of friends chattered, anxiously awaiting the flick.  As the credits started to roll and Dallas (Matthew McConaughey) delivered his line about lawbreakers, many women let out a “woooooooo,” and you could tell everyone thought they were going to see two hours of nonstop stripping.  Not so fast ladies—there’s an actual plot!  

Adam (Alex Pettyfer), is a 19-year-old with nothing going on.  He lost a football scholarship and is aimlessly going from job to job.  He has no real desire to do anything beyond freeloading and is content to sleep on his sister Brooke’s (Cody Horn) couch.  On a day job tiling roofs, he meets Mike (Channing Tatum).  Mike befriends the lost youngster and lets him hang out with him at a club.  Little does Adam know, but Mike is just at the club to scout potential parties of women who might be interested in heading to Club Xquisite, a strip club where Mike works.  Adam is shocked that Mike works at a strip club, but just goes with the flow and somehow ends up hitting the stage on his first night there.

Mike introduces Adam to a world of stripper groupies, partying, booze and money.   Adam’s sister Brooke is less than impressed with Adam’s new job and she tries to serve as a moral compass throughout the film.  Mike, meanwhile, has a master plan.  Between his construction gig and his stripper gig (he really is a hustler), he also builds custom made furniture.  All of the one dollar bills he collects as Magic Mike have been saved to start a new business.  However, Mike’s credit is less than ideal and he struggles to obtain a loan to start his new venture.  The film follows Mike as he reaches a crossroads with respect to his career; and Adam, as he enters a world of orgies, drugs, and fame.

Magic Mike is at times entertaining, but uneven.  Director Steven Soderbergh seems to waver between a whimsical look at the life of male strippers versus a cautionary tale.  The film was mostly light-hearted with random attempts to insert depth to the story, and it just made the film a bit bumpy. In terms of the actors, I have to take my hat off to Matthew McConaughey.  He was born to play a sleazy old ex-stripper, running his own strip joint.  I mean that as a compliment.  McConaughey totally commits to playing Dallas.  With a straight face, he wears a speedo and a skintight bright yellow, half shirt as he demonstrates stripper technique to Pettyfer’s Adam.  He is clearly having a great time as the ringmaster to the stripper circus.  One cannot help but laugh at the corniness of it all as McConaughey teases the raucous female crowds and the likes of Adam Rodriguez and Joe Mangianello dress as firefighters, policeman, and construction workers.  All you needed was a Native American chief during the group strip scenes and they could have broken into Y.M.C.A.  (Sidebar: Kevin Nash from the WWE as Tarzan?  There are a lot of WWE superstars that I could see stripping, but Kevin Nash?).

My biggest issue with the movie, however, is the misuse of Channing Tatum.  Tatum is having one heck of a year.  He was arguably the most interesting character in Haywire, and he’s had huge commercial success with The Vow and the 21 Jump Street remake.  However, Magic Mike reminds us all that Channing can dance his ass off—literally. He is the only one in the cast who is believable as a stripper (aside from Big Joe).  With his insane dancing skills and real life stripper experience, Tatum electrifies every single time he takes the stage.  He was magnificent and frankly has worked his way on to my list of celebrity crushes.  However, he only has TWO SOLO stage performances.  Are you friggin’ kidding me Soderbergh?  You tease women with Tatum’s performances in the movie trailer and then only give us two friggin’ solo scenes?  What a huge disappointment.  I wanted to hurl my popcorn at the screen at the end of the movie in protest.  How dare we be deprived of Tatum dancing?  Friggin’ Soderbergh.  I may need to go and dig up the original Step Up—although, I won’t really see the Magic Mike moves there.  (sigh). 

Knock back some sangria and go check out the fun with your best gal pals.  It’s a fun overall experience and almost feels like a big bachelorette party in the theater.  But don’t expect nonstop stripping.  You will, however, have some funny moments and plenty of eye candy.