For all the women who think that Magic Mike is strictly a ladies’ night out film — a movie for them, their friends, and their coworkers to go see to titillate themselves and evoke their wildest fantasies — well, you’ve been fooled.
The proof lies within the first 5 minutes of the film. The second scene in the film is of Mike (Channing Tatum) waking up from a one night stand. He gets out of bed and we see a shot of his bare ass, to which all the ladies in the crowd whoop and holler (‘Oh my god!’, ‘Yes!’). But then director Steven Soderbergh cuts to a shot of Joanna (Olivia Munn), Mike’s booty call, and her naked breasts. Here, the women in the audience — in my theater, at least — have one of the following two reactions: either they become completely silent, or they let out uncomfortable sighs or groans of embarrassment. Then, in the very next shot, we realize that Mike has just awoken after a night spent with two women, and we see this other woman’s completely naked derrière for quite a long time. It’s a great sequence of shots, as Soderbergh tries to let us know right out of the gate that Magic Mike, a movie about stripping that was made on a budget of $5 million, is more than meets the eye: it’s a good film with a solid story line and excellent acting. And yes, some exotic and provocative dance moves performed by some pretty dreamy men.
Here’s the quick synopsis of Magic Mike: big-time stripper Magic Mike takes Adam, a fellow construction worker that he nicknames “The Kid” (Alex Pettyfer), under his wing and introduces him to the wild and crazy world of male stripping, a world into which The Kid becomes drawn and out of which Mike wants so that he can pursue his entrepreneurial passions. Chiefly, Mike wants to start a custom furniture business — not my first choice for a business, but I’ll follow along. Introduced into the mix are Mike’s brothers in thongs — er, arms — the aptly named “Cock-Rocking Kings of Tampa”, a shifty club owner named Dallas, Adam’s big sister Brooke, and Mike’s booty call Joanna. As the film progresses, the question becomes, does Mike really want out, and if so, how will he ever leave the business that he has grown up with?
Magic Mike is a movie just as much about what it means to grow up and be a man as it is about hot guys taking off their clothes incessantly. In fact, there is quite a bit of down time between the men’s performances on-screen, and even then many of these performances are done in a humorous way. The past-his-prime “Tarzan” particularly comes to mind here.
It’s as though Soderbergh says: “Alright ladies, I’ll let you ooh and ahh at hunky male bodies, but I’m also going to portray this the way it’s viewed in the real world.” That is to say that male strippers are seen mostly as a joke and a form of entertainment in our society, not as titillating and sexy. And that’s absolutely true. Soderbergh let’s us know as much with the following exchange between Mike and Brooke when she first shows up to Xquisite, the male dance revue where Mike does his magic:
Brooke: “I was hoping this was all a joke.”
Mike: “It is pretty funny.”
That’s not to say Magic Mike only pokes fun at the profession: Tatum’s character makes a good living doing what he does, and his performances very much would be described as titillating and sexy. But throughout the course of the film, we come to discover why these men do what they do, and in the case of Mike, why he so longs to pursue other options and make something of himself outside of his stage persona.
It’s refreshing to see a movie of this type contain some legitimately good acting performances. Headlined by Channing Tatum, the films also boasts a cast including Alex Pettyfer, Olivia Munn, newcomer Cody Horn, Adam Rodriguez, former wrestler Kevin Nash, Joe Manganiello, Matthew McConaughey, and a small role by fluffy comedian Gabriel Iglesias. McConaughey as the loyal yet conniving nightclub owner and Munn as the semi-reliable booty call, both of whom spark Mike’s will to change, are especially good here.
With his nuanced performance, it’s quite obvious that Magic Mike is a film that is close to Tatum’s heart. For those who don’t know, Magic Mike was Tatum’s idea: when he was younger and trying to make a name for himself, he used to strip and be the “dreamboat guy that never came along,” as McConaughey’s Dallas puts it. And as a film so close to his heart, he puts on an excellent performance as the conflicted eponymous character. With the success of The Vow, 21 Jump Street, and now Magic Mike, you’d be right to assume that 2012 is the year of Channing Tatum. His skyrocketing popularity is very much deserved.
Much as Mike himself puts on different costumes throughout the movie, this film is one in disguise. Magic Mike is a legitimately good and fairly deep film dressed as a thoughtless ladies’ night out romp.