Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Starring Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, Alex Pettyfer, Joe Manganiello
If you've seen the ads for "Magic Mike," the male stripper movie starring Channing Tatum, you're probably expecting a fun, ribald time ogling at ripped, gyrating hunks. And the movie, directed by Steven Soderbergh and written by Reid Carolin, delivers on that promise.
But the trailers can't show the engaging drama at the heart of the pyrotechnics. At its core, this isn't a film about washboard abs and onstage strutting and thrusting. It's about the ways our personal and professional identities collide and the eternal, timeless struggle to be taken seriously.
It's also the second part of an impressive coming-out party for its star in 2012, after years spent toiling in various pretty-boy parts. Tatum demonstrated graceful comic skills and a penchant for self-mockery in this spring's "21 Jump Street." Here, in a film inspired by his own experiences as a stripper, the actor gives a dramatic performance of surprising depth and smarts. He offers a nuanced take on a man who is all-too aware of what his life is missing.
Tatum plays "Magic" Mike, a gifted 30-year-old member of an all-male revue in Tampa, Fla. By any standard, Mike has done well for himself: He's a tremendous dancer, women adore him, boss Dallas (Matthew McConaughey) trusts him and he lives in a posh condo on the beach. But there's a sadness to him that belies the otherworldly confidence and immaculate good looks.
The film is ostensibly about Mike's recruitment and mentorship of Adam (Alex Pettyfer), an aimless 19-year-old, but it's really centered on his dream to be respected as an entrepreneur, and his quest to be perceived as a person and not an object while toiling in an empty, glorified sideshow.
Again, that's not to suggest that the movie doesn't revel in that sideshow, to a certain extent. Soderbergh, far removed from his brainy, cerebral filmmaking phase ("Che" etc.) delivers the expected goods, and it's about time a film gleefully objectified men instead of women in this setting. There are some unneeded stylistic flourishes - extreme close-ups, distorted angles - but fundamentally, the filmmaker offers straight-forward character- and spectacle-driven entertainment. It's a summer movie, through and through, and you'll have a great time, even if you're a straight male.
But thanks to its rather profound insights into a key component of the human condition and its terrific star, it's also a deeply affecting, emotional experience. Who says you can't have it all?