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Magic Mike

2012 | 110 min | R | 2.39:1

Magic Mike


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Theatrical release date

 29 June, 2012
 11 July, 2012

Country of origin

 United States

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Screenshots from Magic Mike Blu-ray

Magic Mike Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, June 28, 2012

The daily business of male strippers isn’t something seen on the screen very often. There’s 1983’s “A Night in Heaven,” a subplot in 1987’s “Summer School,” and if you squint hard enough, perhaps 1997’s “The Full Monty” counts as well. Forgive me if I’m not 100% versed in the subgene, but I have seen enough tales of drug abuse and movies about womanizing to recognize that “Magic Mike” flounders in the storytelling department. Attempting to gyrate away the staleness of the screenwriting, director Steven Soderbergh pulls out every trick in the book to make “Magic Mike” mean something beyond its parade of shaved backs and tanned buttocks, but it’s a lost cause, endeavoring to bring meaning to material best appreciated for its surface appeal. Much like Magic Mike himself, the film is better seen than heard.

Attempting to raise money to fund his dream of furniture construction, Magic Mike (Channing Tatum) takes to the stage as a male stripper, working with a group of performers (including Joe Manganiello, Kevin Nash, and Matt Bomer) under the leadership of Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), titillating and manhandling the squealing women of Tampa. Dropping into Mike’s life is Adam (Alex Pettyfer), a grubby, 19-year-old anti-authoritarian in need of a job, soon finding himself part of the crew, with Dallas spotting a star-in-the-making in this dim-witted kid. Adam’s entrance into the world of stripping greatly concerns his sister, Brooke (Cody Horn), finding herself targeted for Mike’s seduction routine as he teaches the burgeoning stud the details of the business, including chemical influences and easy sex.

Reportedly based on Tatum’s own history as a male stripper, “Magic Mike” has a perspective very few films of this ilk possess, able to build a narrative out of fantastic experiences with a crew of magnetic personalities. The screenplay by Reid Carolin doesn’t delve too deeply into the particulars of the vocation, only assembling a predictable arc of enlightenment, using Adam as the audience surrogate as he walks wide-eyed into this world of stage domination. It’s a thonged Wonderland and an oiled-up Oz rolled into one, giving Soderbergh a golden opportunity to construct a raunchy and raucous rendering of a nightly club celebration, using Tatum’s expertise as a way to bring out the nuances of the dancing lifestyle and its cancerous effect on the beefy participants.

What “Magic Mike” actually ends up resembling is something Soderbergh has made before, using his art-house inclinations to introduce ‘70’s-era deliberation to the potentially hyperactive proceedings. With his irradiated colors, self-conscious framing, and focus on mundane conversations, the filmmaker has yanked the life out of “Magic Mike,” making the movie’s eventual slide into cliché all the more irksome. The characters are only lightly sketched out, with the supporting players mere ornamentation, bringing nothing to the story outside of their nude backsides. Mike himself is a baffling mix of arrogance and vulnerability. Add in the hip-hop dance moves, and Tatum is essentially reheating his work from “Step Up,” keeping Mike an enigma that Brooke is implausibly drawn to. Despite witnessing his womanizing ways, enduring his incessant clowning and inability to focus, and watching his lifestyle nearly kill her brother, this supposedly intelligent, stable woman remains smitten with the dancer, and the script wants the audience to fall in love with the pairing.

As for McConaughey, he’s playing himself as Dallas, stomping around with a pair of bongos while cooling crowds with his “alright, alright, alright” mantra. He’s energetic and perhaps the smoothest of the dancing men (a real achievement), but there’s nothing to McConaughey’s interpretation of Dallas that we haven’t seen before.

Instead of witnessing the daily stripping grind or pursuing Mike’s furniture dream to something genuinely meaningful, “Magic Mike” instead focuses on pills, sex, and betrayals involving drug dealers (comedian Gabriel Iglesias appears as an ecstasy-pushing D.J.). Backstage insight is shoved aside for rock star bio-pic tropes, with Soderbergh expelling more energy timing his edits and picking out hues than building a group of compelling characters making sense out of a most unusual line of work. Of course, this type of physical distance is to be expected from a filmmaker who’s built a career out such cinematic behavior. However, male stripping doesn’t lend itself to the emotional maturity Soderbergh is half-heartedly hunting for. While the dance sequences are wild enough to meet demand (gay men of the world, this is your “Avatar”), “Magic Mike” is a disappointingly soulless, easily distracted effort, weighed down with needless predictability.

Starring: Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, Matt Bomer, Olivia Munn, Alex Pettyfer, James Martin Kelly
Director: Steven Soderbergh

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Magic Mike, Forum Discussions

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Magic Mike 171 Oct 27, 2012
Magic Mike 2 (2014) 38 Apr 15, 2014

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