Genre: Drama Director: Steven Soderbergh Cast: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Cody Horn, Olivia Munn, Joe Manganiello, Matthew McConaughey, Matthew Bomer, Riley Keough, Gabriel Iglesias, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Adam Rodriguez, Betsy Brandt, Kevin Nash, Mircea Monroe Runtime: 1 hr 50 mins Rating: M18 (Coarse language, nudity and sexual references) Released By: Golden Village Pictures Official Website: http://www.magicmikemovie.com/
Opening Day: 9 August 2012
Synopsis: A dramatic comedy set in the world of male strippers, "Magic Mike" is directed by Academy Award(R)-winning director Steven Soderbergh ("Traffic") and stars Channing Tatum in a story inspired by his real life. The film follows Mike (Tatum) as he takes a young dancer called The Kid (Alex Pettyfer) under his wing and schools him in the fine arts of partying, picking up women, and making easy money.
In case you still have the archaic notion that striptease is an indulgence for the male gender alone, ‘Magic Mike’ is here to correct your impression once and for all. The titular character is one self-described entrepreneur- played by Channing Tatum- who harbours the dream of starting his own business designing custom furniture. But to get that capital, he juggles three jobs- roofing, auto-detailing and most significantly dancing. Not just any ordinary dancing mind you, but rather headlining a six-men male revue act at a Tampa strip club called the Xquisite.
Based in part on Tatum’s own experience as a stripper when he was 18 and a college dropout, it is an honest look at a subculture that is often misunderstood and disparaged. The script by Reid Carolin acknowledges and addresses these preconceptions through the viewpoint of two outsiders – Adam (Alex Pettyfer), a clueless 19-year-old college dropout Mike meets one day at the construction site; and Adam’s sister Brooke (Cody Horn), whom Mike develops a slow but sure fancy towards.
Adam is cast as the virgin, inducted for the first time into this perplexing world of buff bods, sexy thongs, gyrating pelvises, flashing asses and not forgetting generous cash. It doesn’t take long before the shy, withdrawn teenager is up on stage revelling in the attention of the crowds and the delirium of easy money. He’s also the one narrative convention dictates would go over the edge, and as the film builds a mutual liking between Mike and Brooke, you can almost predict how the former will inevitably impact the latter.
Next to Adam, Brooke is portrayed as the straight-laced female ignorant and wary of the baser pleasures that other members of her gender are partaking in. Her first time in a male strip club is in the role of the overprotective older sister checking out where Adam has been hanging out late, her reservations not helped by her discovery of a box of thongs in the living room and Adam using her razor to shave his legs. Thankfully, the script doesn’t make her indignant or over-righteous- instead, she gets to be the most level-headed person amongst all the other characters, and her slow-burning romance with Mike is surprisingly engaging.
The main act however is Magic Mike himself, who is much more than just the crowdpleasing routines he stages with little clothing on – he wants to be better than his club’s owner Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), who at forty, is only as accomplished as the number and tonality of his abs. He wants his life of stripping and odd jobs to be over sometime soon, to become his own boss, to have a real relationship with a lady – not just the threesome casual sex he gets with a psychology grad student (Olivia Munn) – and it is these qualities that make Mike truly endearing.
Key to Mike’s charm is Channing Tatum’s charisma – say what you may about his acting abilities before, but this is the year that Tatum truly comes into his own as an actor, demonstrating an incredible likeability through roles in ’21 Jump Street’ and ‘The Vow’. More than any other, this is a character meant to play obviously to his strengths, but Tatum impresses nonetheless with a mix of playfulness, awareness and spontaneity. Not surprisingly, the highlight of Tatum’s performance is the dance sequences, where he displays his dancing prowess that was one of the main reasons the ‘Step Up’ franchise took off in the first place.
With generous help from choreographer Alison Faulk, Tatum owns the screen whether in his solo or group numbers, his moves simply dazzling whether in the form of pop-and-locks, slides or back flips. Tatum laps up the opportunity to be seen in every male stripper stereotype – soldiers, sailors, cops and firemen – and his gameness, verve and sass is absolutely infectious. Next to Tatum, the rest of the revue – Ken (Matt Bomer), Tarzan (Kevin Nash), Tito (Adam Rodriguez), and Big Dick Richie (True Blood’s Joe Manganiello) – are unfortunately vague blurs, also partly the fault of Carolin’s script for not giving these supporting acts any backstories.
In spite of these routines however, those looking for a straight-out raunchy time will likely be disappointed. The director is after all Steven Soderbergh, and those familiar with his works will recognise the documentary-like style he shoots this in. Rest assured though that he knows better to shoot this in the same experimental vein as say ‘The Girlfriend Experience’, but it is still low-key and loose-limbed, so those expecting a tighter narrative or more high-handed drama may inevitably be let down. But Soderbergh fans will undoubtedly lap up the way he continues to shoot in an anthropological fashion, evocating the mood and feel of similar real-life situations.
Soderbergh is also very much an actor’s director, and in ‘Magic Mike’, he shows why he is that by playing to each actor’s strengths. Most significantly of course, he knows and respects that this is ultimately a vehicle for Channing Tatum to exhibit his talents – as a dancer no doubt, but also as a dramatic actor – and true enough, Tatum shines in the titular role. The favour is not all Tatum’s – for female members of the audience, you’ll get to admire his bod in its full glory; and for everyone else, this is one mesmerising and totally absorbing look into an oft-misunderstood form of female entertainment.
(Not just a showcase of abs and bods for the female sex, this is a fascinating peek at an often disdained profession – and a truly worthy star vehicle for Channing Tatum)