Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike opens with the old 1970’s Warner Brother logo, an appropriate touch, since the movie has as much graphic, out-in-the-open nudity as a film made during that decade. Why all the naked flesh? In case you haven’t heard, this is a fictionalized depiction of actor Channing Tatum’s life as a stripper before he became the star of The Vow. It’s 2012 and we still don’t have a movie about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. but hey, isn’t it great that the life of Channing Tatum is now a motion picture? God Bless America!
Tatum plays Mike, a 30-year old stripper whose nightly bump and grind routine typically ends in a series of sexual encounters with drunken groupies. But Mike has a plan: he’s saving the money shoved into his g-string to finance a furniture-making business. Like Jennifer Beals in Flashdance, he’s taking his passion and making it happen (although Beals never showed as much skin as Channing does in the first five minutes of this movie). Mike’s close bond with Dallas, the strip club owner (played with awesome gusto by Matthew McConaughey), has given him a steady career, until a newcomer nicknamed The Kid (Alex Petteyfer) turns everything upside down.
The movie is a blur of gleeful raunch; strip routines, Mike’s coaching The Kid on the right chaps to wear and backstage drama take up much of the running time. Seeing the film in a theater was kind of like seeing Magic Mike in a strip club, as the audience was predominantly female and cheered through much of the first hour.
What will heterosexual males think of this? I personally could have gone my whole life without seeing how a penis enlarger works, but you know what? The first half of the movie is fun and consistently hilarious. Yes, Tatum strips a lot but he’s actually an impressive dancer and McConaghey, whether teaching the proper way to thrust or wearing ass-less chaps and playing the bongo, is having a wild time sending up his own image.
As with Showgirls, Boogie Nights, The Doors and any movie where debauchery runs amok, the film offers bummer second and third acts, reminding us of the emptiness and moral void that follows. When the characters stop having fun, so do we. The strip acts eventually lose their shock value, the humor fades and you’re stuck with gimme-a-break scenes like Magic Mike sitting on the beach, contemplating whether his next crotch thrust will be his last.
Tatum’s still got the moves but he was more impressive in 21 Jump Street. Cody Horn, playing his love interest, is appealing but blank. Between this, I Am Number Four and Beastly, I’m not impressed with Pettyfer as an actor but, like everyone else in the cast, he shakes his moneymaker with conviction.
Soderbergh is a great director, but his more stylized contributions make this, of all things, a male stripper art movie. The magic is gone by the second hour, with even McConaughey’s tour de force losing its luster. The strippers are all one-dimensional, the story offers no real surprises and the whole thing eventually just left me cold. Like a bachelorette party that goes on way too long or a thong that chafes your okole, the film wears out its welcome.
Rated R / 110 Min.