Set in the world of male strippers, “Magic Mike” is directed by Steven Soderbergh and stars Channing Tatum (“Dear John,” “Step Up”) in a story inspired by his real life. The film follows Mike (Tatum) as he takes a young dancer called The Kid (Pettyfer) under his wing and schools him in the fine arts of partying, picking up women, and making easy money.
When you look at the trailers and promotional material for the hit movie Magic Mike, it is very easy to see why expectations are not overly high for a deep movie. It makes no apologies of selling the sexual side of men’s dancing for money and in some cases even seems to glorify it. Despite these preconceived notions going in, I was quickly corrected in my assumptions upon watching the movie. Magic Mike is all of these things, but wrapped up into a wonderful package of cinematic fun. Being a straight male, I have no urge to see men in g-strings bouncing around a stage for money. Regardless, I would see Magic Mike again if only for some of the comedic moments throughout.
That is not to say that Magic Mike is without any issues…It has several. One such problem is the lack of depth that each fringe character gets. Channing Tatum plays the character of Magic Mike and gets a pretty good slice of the characterization pie. Magic Mike was supposed to be based around the experiences of Channing Tatum when he danced for money before his acting gig heated up.
He plays a superstar dancing draw that is aware of his stripping mortality. Because of this, he wants a bigger piece of the investment pie in the strip club. He also serves as a mentor of sorts to young Alex Pettyfer who plays Adam.
Adam is a perfect example of why the movie came up a little short in characterization. By the time his character becomes vital to the movie, you know little of his motivations, backstory or even why he is a focus. His character was one that could have stolen the show with proper writing. Instead, Pettyfer is reduced to eye candy for the ladies who also happens to make some mistakes within the story.
Matthew McConaughey plays the owner of the strip joint and he gets precious little screen time as well. The difference here is that Matthew commands the screen in his role and forces it to be important. He does less with more in one of the better roles he has had in recent years. For all his leading man roles, this one jumps out as some of his finest work.
Cody Horn, who plays Tatum’s love interest and Pettyfer’s sister, also does quite well despite getting precious little from the material. Her role is one on the fringe, but it does not feel that way as the movie progresses. Like McConaughey, Horn demands that you pay attention to her. If they had leaned a bit more on her in the movie, I feel it would have been vastly superior.
One thing about this movie that I loved, however, was director Steven Soderbergh and his ability to draw out the drama from within the comedy. He has always had a knack for this and he has it on full display during Magic Mike. The movie is a comedy that feels like a drama but remains funny. That special feeling that a movie takes on has always been in his repertoire since the Erin Brockovich days and it is present here in spades. Few directors can pull it off without coming off as jaded or tired. Soderbergh pulls it out of his crew like a fine wine.
While Magic Mike misses the mark on characterization and beefing up the backstory, it delivers in a huge way as far as entertainment value. The movie is flat out fun and Channing Tatum does a good job of staying near his wheel house on the acting front. When it comes to awesome movies that make you want to stand up and shout, Magic Mike certainly fits the bill.