Magic Mike

Steven Soderbergh is a brilliant director. Who else could take a potentially lurid subject like male stripping and fashion it into an introspective little drama? His document rises above the topic to become a rather engaging chronicle of a ”career”-minded individual. The narrative admittedly follows the familiar trajectory of a cautionary tale involving booze, drugs, and women. It’s the multi dimensional characters that really set this apart. Channing Tatum plays Mike Lane who labors as a roof tiler for a local construction company. New hire Adam (Alex Pettyfer) becomes a member of the crew supervised by Mike. Following an accusation of taking extra sodas by the head boss at work, Adam quits in anger after only one day. A college dropout with a slacker mentality he has no prospects. Feeling sorry for him, Mike takes the rookie under his wing and introduces him to his other occupation.

2012 has been the year of the Tatum. The actor has appeared in no less than 3 box office hits that have grossed in excess of 100 million dollars this year. The Vow, 21 Jump Street, and now Magic Mike. Furthermore, this follows in the midst of the delayed debut of G.I. Joe: Retaliation. It was moved from its original intended release date of June 29 2012 to March 29 2013 ostensibly to retrofit the print in 3D. But it was reported in May that the *REAL* reason was based on the test screening audience’s rumored dissatisfaction with the movie. The root of their issue? That Channing Tatum’s character dies too early. Reshooting a film due to a star’s newfound popularity is the very definition of having arrived in Hollywood.

The drama is highlighted by an appealing and colorful supporting cast. Matthew McConaughey is terrific as the owner of the club where the guys dance. He portrays the aging boss (He‘s in his 40s!) with his typical laid back Texas charm. But just because he deals in a sketchy industry doesn’t mean he takes his job any less seriously. He’s a focused businessman and rules his boys like the madam of a brothel. There’s sort of a backstage camaraderie between the guys that you might find with the performers of any legitimate theater production. Alex Pettyfer is Adam, dubbed “The Kid” onstage. He suitably conveys a wide eyed innocence seduced by the money that makes it believable he’d get into this line of work. And let’s not forget the women of the picture. Cody Horn is Brooke, Adam’s sister. Her part is key because she represents the saga’s moral center. There’s a scene where she visits the club to find out what her brother has gotten into. Even before her brother has a chance to perform, Mike takes the stage. Her face registers judgment, then curiosity, followed by disgust as she watches the show. It’s a subtle display, but her role really ties these different worlds together. Also of note is Olivia Munn as the woman with whom Mike has a prior relationship. The intensity of their commitment seems to be up for debate as the tale unfolds.

Screenwriter Reid Carolin’s script is much more concerned with getting to know these people than superficial displays of lascivious behavior. Carolin is Tatum’s producing partner. They worked together on Stop-Loss. Here he fashions a fictionalized account based on Channing Tatum’s own experiences as dancer in Florida before he became a Hollywood actor. Maybe that’s why there’s a surprising depth to these individuals. Director Soderbergh does initially present Mike’s world with a hedonistic superficiality, but he also contrasts this with Mike’s ultimate desire to launch his furniture-design company. There’s a memorable segment where he’s trying to apply for a loan at the bank and it’s reminiscent of that heartbreaking bit in Boogie Nights where Don Cheadle’s character attempts to open his own stereo equipment store. Magic Mike’s subject matter shares other similarities with Boogie Nights in theme. While the breadth of human experience isn’t anywhere close to that landmark film, Magic Mike still manages to present an interesting take on the life of people who exploit sexuality for money.

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17 Responses to “Magic Mike”

  1. I didn’t like the movie it was really boring and a little slow

    • I think I might understand why you felt that way. The trailers promised a lighthearted, frivolous movie. But it was the depth of the story that I appreciated. It wasn’t predictable. It delivered a much better script.

  2. Somebody recommended this to my grandmother about a week or two back, saying it was a chick flick for senior citizens. Seeing the trailer, it doesn’t really look like that. Either way, I doubt it’s a film I’d have any desire to see, even though Soderbergh directed it. Great review, though.

    • This isn’t Dear John or The Vow. I think the story would surprise you in a good way.

    • Fair enough. Being a film critic means you sometimes see films you otherwise wouldn’t normally. Occasionally, as in this case, you get surprised. Also this is Steven Soderbergh, Academy Award winning director of Traffic so I knew it would rise above the subject matter.

  3. Haha, we totally disagree on what we thought of the movie. As a compliment to you, I think your description of it is a lot more interesting than how I felt the movie actually was. I’ll have to agree with Mandy on this one, it was pretty boring and slow for me too. I thought that all the character development was pretty shallow and the story equally so.

    I’ll agree that the overall story wasn’t exactly predictable, but I think for me personally I just found it unpredictable because there wasn’t anything to predict. I don’t know if that makes any sense. I think it was because I wasn’t really expecting any particular ending. However, all the mini-plots were pretty predictable for me. I knew there was going to be a random romance between Cody Horn and Channing Tatum’s characters, and I knew Alex Pettyfer’s character was going to be “inducted” into the world of male stripping. All I was really hoping for was to see some cool dances, but that never really happened, haha.

    • True. Channing Tatum was the only one who really danced. Did you notice Kevin Nash? He just stood there swaying back and forth. It was pretty ridiculous.

      • Haha I actually have no idea who that is. I was really disappointed with Adam Rodriguez though. I went to see Magic Mike mostly because of him, believe it or not. Not for his looks or anything, but I was just wondering if maybe the movie was going to be better than I was expecting, since he did ditch Chris Nolan and Dark Knight Rises for Magic Mike. Stupid move, in my opinion.

  4. I wasn’t sure about making the trip to see this, but i think i’ll give it a go now.

  5. I had such a ball with this movie and I don’t even know how. Actually, I think it was just the fact that this movie knew how to poke a bit of fun at itself, but also get serious with its story that may have gotten a bit predictable by the end, but still kept me intrigued into what was going to happen with these characters. Great performance and great year for Tatum. Good review Mark.

  6. Excellent review, Mark, as always! I think Soderbergh’s ability to “take a potentially lurid subject like male stripping and fashion it into an introspective little drama” was key for this movie to work. And about the GI:Joe reshooting, I knew Tatum was pretty “hot” and in demand this year but I didn’t realize he had that big of an impact. Wow.

  7. I thought Soderbergh did a good job on this. Could of been trashy, but wasn’t. I liked the story.

  8. Grade A surprisingly enjoyable Soderbergh

  9. moviewriting Says:

    Nice review Mark but unfortunately, I don’t think it’s one for me. 21 Jump St really impressed me, as his character was so out of the ordinary for Tatum but this seems to be going down the cliched route once again. I’m also not the greatest fan of Soderbergh (I just didn’t get Haywire!). Very shocked to learn that GI Joe is being reshot because of Tatum’s character’s death being unpopular. I have to say I think less of the studio for deciding to do this, but I can see why they’re doing it

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