BOY CULTURE RATING: ***1/2 out of ****
Magic Mike is...surprisingly good. It is what mainstream mall movies would all be like if directed by smart people who respect the medium even as they turn in products that need to entertain and make money but don't need to suck.
And there's cock within the first five minutes.
And don't ask whose cock—that's like [insert McConaughey twang] askin' what's for dinner when you know dang well you're gonna eat it either way.
When it was announced that Channing Tatum was making a movie all about his stripper days (my posts about which had some of the highest traffic I'd ever had up to that point—here, here, here and here), it sounded like the worst idea ever, like Showboys. With a cast fleshed out by the likes of Matthew McConaughey, Alex Pettyfer, Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer and Adam Rodriguez, it still sounded like a bad idea, albeit one every chick and every gay guy knew we'd be first in line to see. The fact that it would be directed by Steven Soderbergh was the one thing eyebrow-raising piece of information that made it possible, if improbable, that Magic Mike would somehow rise above. And it did.
This ribald, raucous, accessible romp of a film (with a heart of gold) does not pretend to an earth-shattering piece of art like Boogie Nights, and it does have a few clichés (including that heart of gold) mixed in with the thongs and penis pumps and face-thrusts. But Magic Mike has above-average acting, a pleasing cinema verité vibe and enough wit to overcome the very few missteps, one of which includes a pig.
Channing Tatum is the new Mark Wahlberg, emerging from a popular but cheesy past on screen with a dynamic performance as Mike, a 30-year-old stripper who's got the moves but longs to launch his own business. Until he can swing a loan, he'll swing his moneymaker, giving the women of Tampa the business at a seedy strip joint run by aging cock jockey Dallas (McConaughey). Tatum's charm burns up the screen, as does his absolutely on-point stripper choreography, which should be recycled in Oscar montages dedicated to memorable movie footwork forEVER.
Also engaging is Pettyfer as "The Kid", a shiftless 19-year-old Mike takes under his wing and who is the perfect convert to the wild world of peeling off clothing for singles—he's blown a scholarship and has no ambition other than having fun and fitting in. He's also somewhat endearingly honest, at one point blurting out to the dazzling Mike, "We should be best friends!"
Somewhat less effective is Cody Horn as The Kid's disapproving but hands-off big sister. She has nice chemistry with Tatum—that they will end up together, in spite of Mike's hook-ups with voracious (and bisexual) shrink-in-training Joanna (an excellent Olivia Munn), is something the movie encourages you to root for from the moment they meet—but is otherwise a bit blank.
You know how all the hype about the Twilight films includes fawning profiles on the supporting cast, such as Kellan Lutz and Nikki Reed, and then you see the movies and the actors have like 25 seconds worth of screen time? Yeah, that's the issue here when it comes to the film's other famous flashers. We probably see the most flesh from Bomer (not counting a memorably jiggly ass shake by Rodriguez), whose pretty-boy character's outlook on sex gives Henny Youngman's most famous line a modern twist. Manganiello is woefully underused. I can't recall a single full sentence he uttered. Kevin Nash is someone I had no idea was even in the movie, a sort of Mickey Rourke type who rounds out the troupe.
Riley Keough, as some kind of a mystical slut, is merely a symbol of partying too hard, an interesting choice considering her grandfather's fate. She has a few intoxicating (and intoxicated) moments, though.
Probably the most unexpected MVP is Matthew McConaughey, who is lost in his role and yet thoroughly believable. When he does his ultimate strip toward the end, there is no question just how invested he was when making this movie—and he had to have wondered if it would turn out as well as it has.
I think what keeps Magic Mike from rising to the level of something like Saturday Night Fever is that it's not documenting a true cultural phenomenon that's in full swing, but rather one whose time has come and gone. (How many local male strip joints are there these days?)
But it's far better than it could have been, and worth every dollar bill you throw at it.
All animated gifs from The Frisky.