(Published in Issue 12 of my publication In Retrospect)
If you’re in the small minority of the female population that hasn’t been reading E. L. James‘ 50 Shades of Grey this month, then you’ve probably been watching this. Magic Mike, directed by Steven Soderbergh, follows male stripper Magic Mike (Channing Tatum) who teaches a younger performer, teenage drop-out Adam (Alex Pettyfer), how to party, pick up women, and make easy money.
From the director that brought us the Oceans trilogy and thrillers including the fairly recent Contagion and Haywire, Magic Mike is certainly an odd direction for Soderbergh to take. Fortunately, his experience means that there is still something to watch and enjoy when there are no half-naked men stripping.
Based partly on the experiences of Tatum who began stripping when he was 19 years old, this gives the film both a decent story line to fit around the staged scenes and also means that Tatum knows how to dance (And oh boy, he really does!). Both are big qualities of the film – even if only one of them will please the male side of the audience – and it is these points combined that makes Magic Mike stand aside from being just a film about half-naked men, giving it something more than just a kinky premise. It may not be the most gripping of story lines but it isn’t just one terribly put together to be used a backdrop and meant to be ignored. Whilst we had The Full Monty over ten years ago, it was about time that image was sexed up a bit and Magic Mike does that well enough.
The characters may not be deep or engaging – excluding a few scenes of Tatum outside of his stripping business – but Tatum and Pettyfer make an enjoyable on-screen duo. Tatum has been stepping away from his romantic dramas recently and has really been making them work. This may not be the most serious of films but he certainly left an impression in quite a few scenes. Pettyfer, too, had a surprisingly good presence, and maybe after his role here we might get to see him in some better films over the next year.
Also starring Matthew McConaughey, Joe Manganiello, and Matthew Bomer as some of the other male strippers, each play their roles well. Bomer has just been announced to be playing Christian Grey in the upcoming 50 Shades of Grey adaptation so this was a nice teaser for that, but most of these actors were only really a bit of eye-candy in the background. McConaughey, however, was a huge asset to the film. I was quite surprised that he was even cast in a film like this, even if like Tatum he has been known for some very cheesy rom-coms, but by the end of it I wished there was more of him involved.
Another one of the film’s leads is Adam’s sister Brooke who was played by Cody Horn. Her character would be my only criticism of the film as her moody presence often put a downer on the scenes she was included in. Maybe I would have cared more if she was likeable, it may have even added an extra layer to the film to have a decent female lead and a possible romantic connection that we could cheer for, but in the end it was all about the male actors anyway, and that’s all that was important.
It’s fair to say that the cinema was mainly full of women on a girls night out and that’s what Magic Mike is good for, but I’ve not heard any bad reviews from the male side of the audience who braved it on their own either. It could have expanded its audience range a little more by correcting its few minor faults, but it was never going to be an award-winning film anyway. It was just a bit of fun, and for that reason it is a decent watch.