Before I get started I’d like everyone to put on their big boy pants and read everything here as an adult with an open mind rather than snicker like a little junior high brat that just had to say penis and vagina in front of their Health class. Yes, I am a 20 something male that went to a movie about male strippers and yes I am a 20 something male that went to a movie featuring lots of bare chested men dancing on stage and doing lots of pelvic thrusting and liked it- but not because of any of the previously mentioned reasons. MAGIC MIKE may very well be what all the women will be falling over themselves to see due to all the eye candy, but I’m hoping they also take a second to enjoy the smart and funny screenwriting and appreciate the performances outside of the debauchery.
It seems weird to wish that women appreciate a film about men peeling their clothes off because it’s usually the girls picking men’s tongues off the floor whenever a good looking girl sheds a few layers of clothing. I’ve been to female strip clubs before and never have I ever seen a man muster so much enthusiasm over a woman stripping that my audience of women mustered for a movie about male strippers. I suppose I can see why because if MAGIC MIKE is any indication, the girls at a male strip club get much more of a show than most men do at female strip clubs where it feels much sadder and less theatrical. Here the women will get what they want a majority of the time- plenty of half naked male gyrating- while anyone looking for something deeper also get a little bang for their buck as well.
MAGIC MIKE stars Channing Tatum as an aging male stripper, Mike, who has an entrepreneurial spirit using his talents as a means to get his many business ideas off the ground. Tatum continues to impress with his acting abilities here as well, playing a smart and confident character that’s more than just the piece of meat with a G-string stuffed with $1 bills. Mike befriends a young wanderer, Adam (Alex Pettyfer) and decides to teach him his ways on the stage. Mike’s boss, Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), is quite taken with Adam’s potential to help him draw in crowds and Mike takes a fancy to Adam’s sister. Eventually Adam finds the darker corners of the business as Mike starts to contemplate just how much longer he can stay in the spotlight. McConaughey also puts in a pretty great performance even if it was a bit awkward seeing him get groped by dozens of eager women while he sports little more than a loin cloth over his happy place. Pettyfer has his moments but at times does little more than walk around with a scruffy beard and a grimace on his face while Cody Horn who plays his sister, Brooke, does her best portraying an empty shell of a love interest and has one of the most awkward “trying too hard to laugh” scenes I’ve ever seen. All in all though the central performances and some select side characters really sell the film.
Before I lose too many more guys reading this, I’d like to let you know that while you do have to endure a lot of dude sweat before the credits role, the opening scene gives you a bit of a pity shot. While on one side of the screen women will be hooting and hollering at the sight of Tatum’s backside and on the other a very topless Olivia Munn welcomes the eyes of the male audience. In fact aside from the club scenes the film isn’t entirely keen on making the guys uncomfortable so much as it’s just a side effect of portraying a really interesting character study of people living this wild lifestyle.
Guys brushing the film off altogether because the male stripper aspect turns them off should know that the flick is actually very funny. There’s a decent amount of raunchy guy humor and a lot of really clever jokes that at times are sort of misogynistic and less chick friendly- unless they too find two guys talking about getting a girl’s mouth pregnant, funny. The script is far more focused on giving a behind the scenes slice of life story about a real person with hopes and dreams that just so happens to be an extremely talented dancer that goes the extra mile by taking his clothes off in the process. I’m not going to go so far as to say you won’t feel awkward or inadequate during the stripping scenes, but honestly even then there are some pretty funny physical humor and other jokes to have fun with.
The director, Steven Soderberg, has a knack for giving his film’s a distinct look with the use of colors and he does so here as well. The color scheme is similar to that of CONTAGION in as much as it has a bit of a dirty yellowish color scheme during the day scenes, but at and in the club while you still get the more sepia heavy tone there are still plenty of flashing lights and other vibrant colors to break up the visual style. What I really like though is the fact that Soderberg’s films have a way of mixing indie sensibilities with a Hollywood flare. His camera work is always interesting and I am rarely ever bored by any one scene although here the film does feel a tad overlong.
I’ve already had the chance to get some playful jabs from friends about my enjoyment of this film, but truth be told I’m not the least bit embarrassed to admit how much I liked it. Say what you will about the actual stripping, which isn’t what catches my attention outside of acknowledging that the cast, mostly Tatum have serious dancing talent. The script is full of great dialogue that comes off very naturalistic and really excels in its comedy. MAGIC MIKE does however lose momentum in the last act when it loses its fantastic sense of humor and fun in exchange for less realized drug heavy drama. Soderberg’s vision of the male stripping world isn’t just for women, but an interesting character study that’s surprising full of clever laughs and ends up being a raucous crowd pleaser.
Written By: Luke (@CrummyLuke on Twitter)