‘Magic Mike’ Movie Review – More Than Softcore
Sometimes, pushing yourself to see movies you didn’t think you’d like can pay off. For example, I’ve been surprised at how much I could like certain horror movies, even though I wouldn’t call myself a horror enthusiast in the broadest form. But, can the same be said about a male stripper movie? With the way the weekend unfolded, Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike ended up being the movie I saw…and much to the surprise of me, the experience paid off!
When 19-year-old slacker Adam (Alex Pettyfer) can’t keep a job down, he befriends the older, more charismatic Mike (Channing Tatum). Little does he know, but this nice, hardworking guy is actually in the male stripping business. When the boys at Xquisite (their stripper hole) run into some problems, Adam is thrust into a new job. After a shaky, but ultimately successful, performance, Adam finds a new calling.
However, what seems like fun and games has an inevitable downside. With success comes money, and with money comes arrogance. Mike, a veteran stripper, has kept this on- and off-stage personas separated, but can the younger Adam? With his protective, but loving, sister (Cody Horn) watching from the sidelines, Adam and Mike’s lives change as they deal with the business, each other, and their relationships.
As you can imagine, Magic Mike didn’t seem like my kind of movie. After I initially saw the trailer, I was shocked to find out the movie was directed by Steven Soderbergh. Not only does the material seem less like him (although he’s had a storied career), but he already directed this year’s Haywire! Maybe it makes sense to have a female action hero in one movie and a male stripper in the other?
Either way, his newest movie outdid any expectations I had. Even knowing the general buzz beforehand, I still was able to enjoy the film. It wasn’t easy either, since the very beginning scene (after Matthew McConaughey’s introduction) seemed inexcusably fake. I sank down into my seat, half expecting the rest of the film to continue the trend.
While I partially blame Tatum for the opening scene, he completely turns it around. In fact, while I admittedly was anti-Tatum before this year, I’ve made a transformation. I still wouldn’t consider him one of my top tier actors, but he’s certainly climbing the ranks. Like his work in 21 Jump Street, he brings both the masculinity and comedy. I’d actually argue he’s funnier in Magic Mike, where he really perfects the subtle humor. When he doesn’t try to be really funny, he gets the most laughs.
Likewise, McConaughey had a similar performance. His role as Xquisite manager Dallas made him quite the scene stealer. Not only is this a perfect role for him, but he executed it that way, too. Obviously, he’s more of a supporting character, but I would’ve never guessed this would be my favorite McConaughey role.
Rounding out the rest of the cast, there weren’t any characters that ruined it either. While the aforementioned actors were the standouts, Pettyfer, Horn, and others capped the cast nicely.
The small issues I have involve the plot, particularly in the final act. Almost from the get-go, it isn’t difficult to guess exactly what will happen. While I wasn’t spot-on involving the conclusion, I also wasn’t far off.
However, I was pretty far off on the presentation. I was particularly struck with how well Soderbergh captured the background of his shots, particularly involving the dialogue. Even when our focus is on the foreground characters, the actions and audio behind them is very involved. I don’t know if I’ve seen some shots that seemed so deep before. I probably have, but I just haven’t noticed them as much.
Secondly, I was blown away with how effective the dancing was. In fact, at one point I had to catch myself because I actually realized how much I cared about what the male strippers were doing – this wasn’t a realization that was easy to write down either.
Therefore, I must give props to Magic Mike. Somehow, someway, I got involved in the story. I wasn’t particularly wow’d by the plot conclusion, but I was with the acting (especially Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey). Likewise, the style (especially the dance numbers) made it seem a lot less like a stripper movie.
In the end though, it’s not fair to think of the movie as softcore for women – and yes, it earns its R rating – but it deserves to be thought of as a relationship movie. There are plenty of characters to invest in, and Steven Soderbergh fleshed out some pretty good material in the process.
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