If you haven’t heard or seen, Magic Mike hits theaters today.
Yes, that’s the Channing Tatum stripper movie.
I’ve seen it, and as expected, the movie features lots of voyeuristic pleasure for anyone who likes seeing shirtless, often pantless, men. (The things I’ll do for my blog readers.)
If you’re like me, and that’s not something you typically enjoy, then you might think you should stay far away from Magic Mike. But surprisingly, there is good reason to pay up and check out this flick.
Actually, here are five of them:
1. It’s about more than stripping
Yes, Magic Mike is a movie about male strippers. But it’s more than that: It’s about the lengths people will go to fulfill their dreams.
Our hero, Mike Lane (Tatum), fancies himself an entrepreneur/stripper (or stripper/entrepreneur — either one works). He’s got his eyes on the prize, which is starting his own custom furniture business, and in the meantime, he’s dancing, working construction, and running a mobile detailing business too, in order to fund that venture.
Mike and his buddies don’t strip for the sake of stripping. They’re in it for three things: “women, money, and a good time.” The taking off of clothes is just what will get them those things.
It makes sense, kinda, but it’s almost too good a time, and the line between Mike’s nighttime activities and his daylight ones are blurring. Will he realize this and reprioritize before it’s too late?
2. It’s pretty funny
If you’ve seen Showgirls, then you know how awful a movie about strippers can be. While Magic Mike is better than that (much better), it still has its share of laughs — some intentional and some not.
For example, many of the dancing scenes are bad — and by that I mean campy fun. The “costumes” are cheesy, the routines are silly, and most of the guys can’t really dance; they just like getting out there, taking off their clothes, and shaking their moneymakers. The thing is, that’s all they need to do, and these guys know that.
And then there’s Matthew McConaughey, who plays Dallas, the club owner and manager. McConaughey here gets an almost ideal role: He’s shirtless for nearly the entire movie, he gets to play bongo drums, drink from a pimp cup, have women adore him, and say his famous line, “All right, all right, all right” over and over. As a stripper who thinks he’s all that, but really is past his prime, he’s a hoot.
3. Olivia Munn is lookin’ good
Don’t like the guys? Then see the movie for Olivia Munn, the former Daily Show correspondent, who here plays a frisky, threesome-loving friend of Mike’s. When we first see her, she’s topless. At another time, she’s in a bikini. Either way, she’s lookin’ good.
Munn’s not in the movie enough — a shame, since she’s a much better actress than Cody Horn, who play’s Mike’s love interest — but when she is, your eyes will only be on her.
4. Channing Tatum is really good
Gotta give props where props are due: Tatum is the real deal. The guy and his character come across here as likeable, hardworking, and talented, even if he (Mike) doesn’t always act as intelligently as he thinks he is.
Tatum turns in another winning performance (proving that 21 Jump Street was no fluke), and he can dance rings around his costars too, without a whole lot of effort. (I guess that’s not much of a surprise; Magic Mike is loosely based on Tatum’s pre-Hollywood career as a male dancer, after all.)
Plain and simple, this guy’s a star, and Magic Mike makes it official.
5. You owe it to Steven Soderbergh
He’s also the director of a little-seen but very good movie called The Girlfriend Experience, which starred the porn star Sasha Grey. So the way I see it, Magic Mike is like Soderbergh’s quid pro quo for everyone who’d rather ogle men instead of women. If you saw The Girlfriend Experience, then you owe it to Soderbergh to see Magic Mike too.
More importantly, though, Soderbergh knows what most of the audience is going to see, but he brings more skill and filmmaking expertise to the table than he has to. (As always, he’s not just the director, he’s the cinematographer too, under the name Peter Andrews.)
This is a world that’s tacky and gratuitous, but Soderbergh doesn’t make us feel dirty. He shoots the scenes from angles that make us feel a part of the action (sometimes at crotch level), but still detached from it. And sure, the plot is pretty conventional (young, naive kid — played by Alex Pettyfer — follows the lure of showbiz, only to lose control), but Soderbergh keeps the tone fun and engaging, allowing us to laugh at what we’re seeing (when appropriate) and root for Mike at the same time.
The bottom line?
You may have already made up your mind about whether you’re going to see Magic Mike or not, but if you’re a straight guy and you’re dragged to the theater, you can at least look forward to those five things making the time worth it.
This is a better movie than the beefcake-heavy marketing campaign is making it out to be, and you could do far worse with your time.
I’m giving Magic Mike a B.
Will you be seeing Magic Mike? Have you already? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.