Note: if you’re going just to see Channing Tatum and/or Matthew McConaughey wearing banana hammocks and don’t give a hoot about the plot or acting, here’s an abbreviated review: beefcake beefcake beefcake plot blah blah man-butt abs blah blah blah.
I knew, I just knew as soon as I referred to how little I wanted to see Magic Mike, my editor would ask me to review it. He has a cruel sense of humor, that Kevin. Fortunately for me, I had no shortage of female friends who wanted to see it with me, so at least I wasn’t alone.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of Channing Tatum. No, I’m not threatened by his looks or muscles (or ridiculously good dance moves); he’s just not much of an actor. I am a big fan of Steven Soderbergh, though, and I was hoping that if anyone would be able to pull this movie off in an entertaining fashion for guys who’re forced to see it, it’d be him. Soderbergh does his damnedest, but unfortunately, it falls a bit short.
Adam (Alex Pettyfer) is a 19-year-old drifter struggling to find a job while sleeping on his sister Paige’s (Cody Horn) couch. A former football player, he works for exactly one day laying shingles until he quits, but not before he meets Mike (Tatum), who gives him a ride home when his car breaks down. That night, Adam happens to run into Mike, who gives him an opportunity to earn a little money working at the male strip club Mike dances at.
Adam’s initially hesitant, but once he sees the money being thrown around, he agrees. When one of the dancers is unable to perform, Mike gets the crazy idea to send Adam out. After a shaky but somewhat promising performance, Dallas (Matthew McConaughey) agrees to teach him the ropes and let him work at the club, Xquisite.
Adam learns the ropes and becomes one of the main attractions. Meanwhile, the film shows Mike’s personal life as he tries to get his dream career of building custom furniture off the ground, but he finds getting a business loan more difficult than he’d imagined. Through all this, he begins courting Paige while continuously pursuing a romance with Joanne (Olivia Munn), a psychology student. Mike’s future with Xquisite also comes into question when he finds out Dallas, who’s been planning on moving the club from Tampa to Miami and giving Mike a 10% stake, is only going to give him 7.5% and will be giving the newcomer Adam an equal stake. On top of that, Adam begins to get deeper and deeper into the stripping lifestyle, much to the chagrin of Paige, who was promised by Mike that he’d look after her little brother.
I’ll admit, I took a little heat from some of my friends when they found out I’d be screening Magic Mike, but in all honesty, it wasn’t just pure beefcake, although there IS a significant amount of exposed abs and man-butt. Fortunately, there isn’t really a significant amount of, ahem, package shown, although it is present in a few scenes.
Thankfully, the film goes beyond the beefcake and tries to reveal the human behind the flesh shows, and I was actually pleasantly surprised by Tatum. He doesn’t do anything groundbreaking, but he speaks without his traditional gangsta accent, and at times he actually seems almost human. During the most emotional scenes, he stumbles and stutters through what he’s trying to say, and it’s pretty perfect for the tone. Not every person’s capable of perfect reparte in every situation, and Mike is very human in these scenes. Pettyfer, too, is able as an uncertain newcomer who grows into his comfort level.
Unfortunately, that’s more than I can say for the rest of the cast. The minor characters never fully develop, and the only other noteworthy performance was McConaughey’s, for all the wrong reasons. I’ve never been huge on McConaughey. He’s given some fine performances (A Time to Kill, The Lincoln Lawyer), but I just can’t get over the fact that he always speaks with his trademark drawl out of one half of his mouth. I know it’s what’s made him famous, but the fact that he refuses to go without it is just a minor nuisance. Beyond that, his performance is just dull. Horn, too, is lackluster, and I found myself comparing her to Kristen Stewart, which is in itself pejorative.
* possibly chauvanistic note: to the guys who are going to be dragged to see this, take heart, as there is female nudity, featuring the ever-lovely Olivia Munn. I get the feeling Soderbergh just felt bad for the males in the audience and threw them a few boobs out of mercy. I won’t complain about that, though. *
Unless you’re a huge fan of Soderbergh and absolutely have to see every film he directs before his upcoming retirement, you may want to spend your money on something else. Of course, I get the feeling most people won’t be going to this movie for the plot. If you’re going just to see some flesh, you’ll easily get your money’s worth.
Magic Mike gets a C-.