Director: Steven Soderbergh
MPAA Rating: R
Studio: Nick Wechsler Productions
What happens when 42nd Street meets A Night in Heaven meets Can’t Stop the Music meets Flashdance meets Showgirls meets Coyote Ugly meets Boogie Nights? Magic Mike, that’s what, in which director Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Reid Carolin take a likeable, fun-loving troupe of male strippers and peel away the body oil, glitter, thongs and, finally, the defenses. Based in part on chiseled star-producer Channing Tatum’s younger days spent thrusting his thong-clad crotch into the faces of eager female patrons in Florida, the amiable, rambling, often hilarious workplace comedy Magic Mike delivers a raucous good time.
Tatum, easy, enjoyable and untaxed by major dramatic scenes, plays an ambitious hustler who works as a roofer, details cars, socks away his money and aspires to make handcrafted furniture of his own design. Except the bank considers him a bad risk. Meanwhile, he has a sometime f-buddy thing going on with a bisexual psych student (Olivia Munn) and, by night, he works it with fellow exotic dancers like Matt Bomer and Joe Manganiello at the Xquisite Dance Revue, presided over by the strutting, charismatic, ruthless owner Matthew McConaughey who pretty much steals the movie any time he’s on screen. Where was this guy when we needed him in Rock of Ages? Tatum takes under his wing an angry, hunky college dropout (Alex Pettyfer) who is crashing with his sensible, justifiably suspicious sister (Cody Horn); in no time flat, the new guy, dubbed “The Kid,” is busting moves at the club, making good money and quickly going over to the dark side of drugs, messed-up women and deals gone dangerously wrong. End of plot, pretty much.
The good stuff here is the easy camaraderie among the strippers, the peek we get into sordid lives spent shopping for stripper gear, pumping up various body parts, pressing scrunched-up dollar bills under books and the adrenaline rush of selling tease, fantasy, escape. Growing up, getting responsible can be a tough, painful process and when the movie deals with such stuff, Tatum gets a chance to show some vulnerability. It’s a skin-deep movie of skin-deep characters, but it’s rowdy, beautifully made and good hearted.