Big Screen Review :: Magic Mike
August 1st 2012
Judging by my wife’s wild eyed enthusiasm and the general audience profile, it started to dawn on me that not everyone in my screening of Magic Mike was excited because they were watching a new Steven Soderbergh movie like I was. There were other factors at play, in particular Channing Tatum’s swirling butt. Whatever. I have enjoyed Steven Soderbergh movies where the lead was played by a mixed martial artist, a porn star, an overweight KFC manager and Julia Roberts. I can get on board with this stripper business.
Tatum plays the title character, an extremely charismatic, entrepreneurial stripper just flirting with the moment when all the things that made him awesome in his 20s are threatening to make him just a bit sad in his 30s. Pure chance sees him take ‘The Kid’, played by Alex Pettyfer, under his wing, introducing him to stripping and introducing himself to The Kid’s sister, played by Cody Horn. Don’t let the trailers fool you, Magic Mike is a slow and sweet character study, an understated little romance and a look at the American dream, punctuated by a bunch of scenes featuring Tatum, Pettyfer, Matthew McConaughey and some guy from CSI Miami dressing up like a bunch of idiots, revealing their butt cheeks and sitting on some ladies faces. It won’t take you long to get a bead on both Magic Mike and The Kid, and the movie offers no great surprises on their journey. I think this unwillingness to throw any real narrative obstacles at these characters is probably why I left a little underwhelmed. It’s beautifully shot and nicely sketched by Pettyfer, and in particular Tatum, who is really coming into his own after movies like 21 Jump Street and Haywire. McConaughey is the movie’s livewire, clearly having so much fun as the owner and host of the strip club.
The movie runs long and features A LOT of stripping. Soderbergh is acutely aware that it’s a big part of the appeal. It reminded me of the way martial art movie grinds to a halt every twenty minutes to stage a huge fight. Great if you love watching people fight, or, in this case Channing Tatum prance around in a g-string; if not, not so much. It’s definitely minor Soderbergh, though he has taken something that could have been just awful, and made it at least interesting. That said, you know a Soderbergh movie is going to be interesting. You hope it’s going to be great. Magic Mike is just alright.