MAGIC MIKE Review

Before the movie even began I wondered if there might be any point to writing a review about it. The film, from its initial conception seemed a way to push Channing Tatum's celebrity and sexual appeal that much further. Granted, it is made by award-winning director Steven Soderbergh, this still didn't stop me from thinking, after the first few scenes that it would be a film that would require little to no analysis. A film I would likely be able to shed no further opinion on considering the subject matter and considering the movie seemed to take itself for what it was: a fun time at the movies for a girls night out. While serving its purpose on this front and delivering (for the most part) what the ladies in the audience likely expected, Magic Mike also turns out to be something a little more than that. How director Soderbergh has transitioned from directing the apocalyptic-disease tale Contagion last September then moving on to an experiment in the underrated action flick with a feminist drive known as Haywire and now onto a romp of a film like Magic Mike is pretty baffling, but it is also kind of brilliant. As a lover of film I am happy to have such a creative and adaptable director deliver three projects in less than a year, but beyond that the diversity this shows is to be admired, the skill with which he has infused his own touch into each genre is another thing to behold entirely. While Magic Mike could have easily been that male version of Showgirls, it stops itself from even venturing into camp territory (except when intentional) and steps back from the world it is chronicling to take a look at the bigger picture. It analyzes its own issues for us instead of getting wrapped up in itself as most movies do.

Brooke (Cody Horn) and Mike (Channing Tatum) share
a stroll and a drink with one another.
As anyone even remotely interested by this movie might be aware, Magic Mike is the brainchild of star Tatum himself as it is based off his "experiences" as a stripper before he hit it big. That is to say, most of the events that take place are likely slightly embellished but the world, the world in which all of this takes place is what feels truly genuine. As stories go about excess, fame, money, and women go someone undoubtedly will have their good time driven to the point that they cross a line and have to be woken up from their excess to go back to what really counts towards gratification in this life. Magic Mike plays loose with these archetypes as the title character himself Mike Lane (Tatum) is a ring leader of a group of Tampa strippers by night while using the easy money he gains dancing to fund his dreams of being able to build a business out of making custom furniture. Mike is a career oriented individual who we truly believe to have more of an outlook on his life to realize he doesn't want to end up like his boss at the strip joint. Still, it is also clear Mike isn't taking this time in his prime for granted either. He enjoys what he does and the lifestyle that comes with it. He likes to be seen on stage, the adoration it brings to a person is something he likely begins to crave and is hard to go without. It is made clear he likes to fool himself by justifying the stripping as a front until he can get his feet on the ground with his furniture business. He can only tell himself this for so long though until the realizations are brought forth he is doing nothing but lying to himself. To help Mike move along in his developmental stage we have Brooke (Cody Horn, who I liked but looks angry all the time) the sister of new recruit Adam (Alex Pettyfer) and the only one who doesn't seem to be impressed by Mike on first sight. Tatum truly does let his character live the arc written for him in the script and displays the most on screen charisma he's ever been able to convey with this role. In this role it is made evident why Hollywood has become so enthralled with the actor and why he has become the biggest name of 2012.

The men of Xquisite include Adam (Alex Pettyfer),
Dallas (Matthew McConaughey) and Magic Mike.
With Mike serving as the ringleader of this crew (and the only legitimate dancer) he goes out recruiting ladies for their show and happens to run across Adam, a college dropout who he met earlier in the day at a roofing job. The Kid, as he comes to be known, is an impressionable 19 year-old that seems to have lost any kind of ambition for anything. Feeling sorry for the Adam, Mike takes him under his wing and introduces him to that world of money, women, and a good time. Hesitant at first to embrace the lifestyle it quickly becomes like a drug to Adam when he begins to understand the rewards it can bring. Rounding out the troop of Tampa dancers is Ken (a briefly seen Matt Bomer), Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello), Tito (Alex Rodriguez) and Kevin Nash as Tarzan. These guys don't actually do very much dancing, more grinding on poles, chairs, women or pretty much anything you put in front of them. They have the looks required to fulfill the fantasies of their female patrons and that seems to be enough to overlook the lack of actual talent they display. I guess this makes it easier to better understand why each of these individuals doesn't come to the same realizations Mike is having. They need nothing more than the instant satisfaction of what's given to them on stage and have no thought of where this might lead them to be 10 years down the road. This kind of sad and pitiful lifestyle is summed up in the true leader of the Tampa boys and their hotspot. As Dallas, Matthew McConaughey gives yet another great performance in what seems to be the midst of a career renovation. Dallas is a 40-something who runs his own club and leads a lifestyle of leisure and unchallenged ideas. He has no desire to reform to what might be seen as more respectable, but he has no reason to either. He can see the restlessness in Mike as he begins to formulate plans of a big business move to Miami. He too takes Adam under his wing and we see the subtle hint of the cycle beginning again with The Kid as it likely did 6 years earlier when Mike wandered into the world Dallas made so appealing.

Dallas gives Adam his first lesson in stripping.
The way in which Soderbergh presents his story is that he takes more care to deliver the audience a portrait of the title character and who he is rather that what he is at this moment in his life. This is critical to the sincerity of the film and in terms of it succeeding as a story. This could have easily been a slapdash effort and a quick cash grab for Tatum and everyone involved, but lucky for the males who do in fact venture out to see this it is something more than that, something anyone in that audience can likely relate to. Feeling stuck in a rut, wanting and aspiring to go to places you would feel content with in your life rather than constantly struggling to reach what feels like an unattainable goal. No, Magic Mike is probably not what many of the women walking in expected it to be. This is not the light-hearted stripper movie that delivers the goods and leaves no price to pay for the excess within which these boys operate. No, it is an introspective look at a world that has never really been explored with such a credible hand before. Sure, the case can be made that such a topic deserves no serious consideration, that by pure virtue of what it is and what it represents is an artificial and vulgar view of what women want and desire in their most carnal of natures is nothing to be proud of. The idea that such a movie, with such a cast could exceed those characteristics itself to become a more human story is almost as unbelievable as the fact I would have expected to enjoy it as much as I did. In the end, it is the fact director Soderbergh was able to take such a subject matter and turn it into a movie that means something more than an excuse to watch hard-bodied actors take off their clothes and that he was able to turn it on the audience and make them look inside themselves to help motivate them to understand that you can only fool yourself for so long. In the most ingenious of ways it is delivering the message to the hoards of women that have gone out to see it that they are not restricted to one role in life, that they have the power to make the decisions for how they want their life to turn out. Now, if they could only see that past the biceps and the gyratng.