For the past month, every straight woman who knows I’m a critic has been asking if I’ve seen “Magic Mike” yet.
If that’s an indication of its box office prospects, we may soon see a wave of male-stripper movies to rival the sparkly vampire craze.
It’s unlikely any of them will have a director like Steven Soderbergh. He can be raunchy without being juvenile, something very few filmmakers would even attempt in a movie about people taking their clothes off.
Channing Tatum’s own pre-acting strip-club gigs inspired “Magic Mike.” He plays the title character, who entertains the ladies at a Tampa, Fla., establishment called Xquisite. He also does the books for the club’s owner, Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), a charming egomaniac with a plan to relocate and expand his business in Miami. When Mike befriends 19-year-old Adam (Alex Pettyfer), Dallas sees an opportunity to bring some new energy to the show, and Adam becomes part of the Xquisite “family.”
Soderbergh explores the temptations and absurdities of this lifestyle with easygoing wit. The guys earnestly rehearse and try out new material, while enjoying the many perks of the job. The cast includes former wrestler Kevin “Diesel” Nash and TV hunks Joe Manganiello (“True Blood”), Matt Bomer (“White Collar”) and Adam Rodriguez (“CSI: Miami”), so there’s no shortage of eye candy.
What sets “Magic Mike” apart is that the hotness is equaled — occasionally even surpassed — by the humor. The dialogue is funny, if a little over-improvised (Soderbergh’s direction must have consisted of, “Keep talking until I say ‘cut’ ”). When the actors hit the stage, they have a great time with their over-the-top routines, showing off what God and their personal trainers have bestowed upon them.
Soderbergh and screenwriter Reid Carolin have greater ambitions, going for a scope and seriousness that don’t quite work out. Adam’s youthful foolishness leads to a downward spiral that Mike fails to notice until it’s out of control. This complicates Mike’s budding romance with Adam’s sister, Brooke (Cody Horn), who isn’t too inclined to hook up with the man who introduced her little brother to drug-fueled orgies.
We don’t get to know any of the characters that well, so these scenes have less emotional impact than they should. The relationship subplot is even more cursory — Horn seems bored most of the time, as if she’s not sure why Brooke exists, either. Soderbergh starts out in his kicky “Ocean’s Eleven” mode, then tries to turn the film into something closer to an indie drama like “Sex, Lies, and Videotape.” Those are two great things that don’t go togetherat all
Tatum has great comic timing (and killer dance moves), but he struggles with the dramatic elements. In fairness, it’s hard to imagine anyone doing all the things Soderbergh asks for in a two-hour feature. Maybe “Magic Mike” should be turned into a cable television series, where it would have time to play out properly.
I apparently know several women who would get HBO just to watch it.What others are saying
•Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post
: “It’s a nicely balanced blend of comedy, drama and athletic dancing that plies its trade with winking, unforced self-assurance.”
• David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter:
“Soderbergh clearly gets a kick out of flipping the gender roles of sexual objectification. The club scenes cater to male fantasies of mass female adoration, while the hordes of delirious, drunken women stuffing singles into jockstraps represent a liberating switch from the usual depictions of sleazy men leering at pole dancers.”
•Karina Longworth, Village Voice
: “The highly calculated ‘Magic Mike’ is pure Hollywood self-mythology — a neo-Depression musical, a wish-fulfillment fantasy for (bad) times.”Swoontastic scenes in beefcake cinema
• “American Gigolo” (1980): A shirtless Richard Gere contemplates what to wear.
• “Top Gun” (1986): Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer and Rick Rossovich play sand volleyball.
• “Dirty Dancing” (1987): Patrick Swayze gives private mambo lessons to Jennifer Grey.
• “Thelma Louise” (1991): “I may be an outlaw, darlin’,” says an ab-mazing Brad Pitt, “but you’re the one stealing my heart.”
• “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” (2011): Ryan Gosling (left) reveals his “Photoshopped” torso.