Starring Matthew McConaughey, Channing Tatum, Olivia Munn
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
There is a simple myth that covers the differences between men and women when it comes to sex. Men are oversexed and women, under. Filmmakers can play on this concept by either sticking to the consensus straight-faced or ironically, or showcasing the opposite idea. Of course, with most topics, even in the definition of over or undersexed, results, opinions and beliefs differ, leaving a big, gray area. Such is the case with “Magic Mike,” probably the first movie centered on male strippers.
First off, no one should go into this movie without knowing what to expect. “Magic Mike” is fun, self-aware, well-written and well-acted. It also features hard R-rated innuendo, sex, suggestive dancing and full-frontal nudity. Saying this with less tact: there are plenty of penises in this flick.
Speaking of genitalia, the idea of a full-frontal shot has long been the go-to gimmick for directors to get the idea of sex across. It’s a tool in the filmmaker’s belt, either played for laughs or at the very least, shock. In “Magic Mike,” both possibilities are on the table.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s talk about all the sexy guys. Set in Tampa, Channing Tatum is Magic Mike, the veteran stripper at Xquisite, a popular ladies club. Mike is a charmer and Tatum is well cast for not only his charisma but experiences this movie is based on. Alex Pettyfer plays Adam, a newbie who’s transformed by Mike from a poorly dressed layabout to the newest moneymaking dancer.
Tone, as always, is very important and “Magic Mike” actually manages to maintain a consistent feel. Part romantic comedy, part drama, part salacious sex and drug story, the movie is all over the place but is entertaining throughout. It’s ultra-realistic, meaning that everything that happens is possible, if not a little on the boring side as the manufactured drama, the romance and oddly specific drug dealing for example, are there for the sake of drama.
There have been plenty of movies about strippers, hookers, phone sex operators and any variation between. There’s potential for great drama here, especially when discussing sex and sex related topics. Safe to say, because of how this movie is shot, replacing the men with women would feel exploitative, cheap. That’s probably why there hasn’t been a “good” stripper movie, because every other one so far has focused on the nudity and sex instead of big questions.
Here with men being the exotic dancers, challenging the gender tropes in so many fun ways, the psychological analysis is lacking. Not to say every movie has to be a cerebral snore, but aside from the title character and a handful of witty observations on the stripping business, there isn’t some big concept to help tie it together. Even talking about the differences in presentation, performance and clientele would suffice, but in the end stripping equals bad and that’s all the movie has to say.
What does work? The supporting cast and the presentation. Olivia Munn and Cody Hill play the past and possible future girlfriends. Of the dancers, “True Blood’s” Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer (“White Collar”), Matthew McConaughey (“The Lincoln Lawyer”) and professional wrestler Kevin Nash all get to shine.
Lastly, the musical numbers are fantastic. The same way men can cheer for a boxing movie, women are going to hoot and holler at the screen the way the women in the movie do so at the stage. Director Steven Soderbergh presents the movie as if the audience is sitting in that seedy little dance club enjoying the great dancing, good music and some of the sexiest men you’ll see all year.