3 StarsLets address the elephant in the room at the start. Magic Mike is not the Showgirls of our generation. Thankfully Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh has infused an artistic angle on this dark comedy/drama that adds a level of seriousness and realism that the campy Paul Verhoeven film from the 1990’s could only wish for. Channing Tatum (who co-authored the screenplay based on his experiences as a dancer) is Mike, a Florida based construction worker by day and an exotic male dancer by night. The dual lifestyles are only for income as his real interest is in designing unique furniture.
Seduced by the money and influence of his charming manager, Dallas (Matthew McConaughey). Mike has recruited a protegé of his own to bring more money into the strip club, furthering the dream of opening a second joint in Tallahassee. An elusive plan that never seems to come together as Dallas continually strings Mike along with promises of co-owning the other venture. The novice beginner Adam (Alex Pettyfer) is shy initially but that turns when the money and lifestyle change fuels his need for sex, attention and eventually drugs.
Using Adam as the entry point into this seedy underworld of male stripping, the audience can enter this world and experience the high of performing for the first time and the seduction of all the female attention that it brings. Mike is the more mature of the two, seeking a more financially secure (and socially acceptable) career path. Adam’s headstrong sister Brooke (Cody Horn) catches Mike’s eye, but she is at first too smart and proud to be associated with someone of his social standing.
The story alternates between intricately choreographed dance sequences and the personal trial that Mike faces in building his relationship with Brooke and starting a furniture company. While Adam succumbs to the temptations that Mike has carefully side-stepped during his career at night.
McConaughey is the run-away scene stealer here, his good ‘ol boy accent covers up the darkness of his actions. The irony that Mike is essentially seducing audiences every night while being conned himself is an underlying point that Soderbergh and Tatum as the co-writer keep beating home. Look at an early scene that the director choses to cover from a distance, making the audience aware of the voyeuristic tendencies related to watching strippers perform. There is an abundance of male flesh on display, but there is also a great deal of artistry in the construction and execution of this simple story.
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Stars: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Cody Horn