If you’re going to see this movie, chances are you want to see attractive dudes naked and dancing. And if that’s your primary focus, then you’ll be basically satisfied. If you want a little story and depth behind gyrating naked bodies… Well, that’s a little more complicated.
Magic Mike focuses on the story of Mike (Channing Tatum) and Adam (Alex Pettyfer). Mike works four jobs, including stripping, in an effort to start his own furniture design business, but is severely struggling with this dream. Alex has just lost a football scholarship, and is sleeping on his sister’s sofa, unemployed and incredibly self-centred. When Adam takes a construction job off Cragislist to earn a bit of extra cash, he meets Mike, and is lured into Mike’s somewhat glamorous world of stripping, drinking and sex.
Apparently the screenplay is loosely based on Channing Tatum’s actual experiences as a stripper in Tampa, Florida, and if that’s the case, you can kind of understand the appeal of male exotic dancing. Apparently you sleep with attractive women most nights, make very decent living (mostly via tips that are shoved into your underwear), and party pretty much non-stop. It’s the downside of this lifestyle that brings some depth to the story of Mike and Alex, though it’s also where the story and direction become a little messy.
At the beginning of the film, you can really feel director Steven Soderbergh’s stamp, with the golden filter and the angled shots, and the way the narrative is structured into months. But about 2/3 of the way into the film, this is all forgotten, as if someone else came in and directed the last portion of the film. Alex’s story fades into irredeemable territory, and Mike’s intelligence seems to be his biggest downfall, but none of this is really explored… Some bad shit goes down, and you just kind of have to accept that.
The supporting players don’t have a major role, beyond some key scenes with Dallas, the dancing troupe’s manager and leader (Matthew McConaughey, who seems like he’s having a lot of fun in short shorts). The only other character of note is Brooke, Adam’s sister (Cody Horn, who looks eerily like Missy Higgins), who is a cooler and smarter head, and becomes Mike’s love interest. Don’t get me wrong, the likes of Joe Manganiello and Matt Bomer are pretty to look at… They just don’t do much beyond dance half-naked.
My biggest problem with this film is that the only two likeable, decent characters are Mike and Brooke. Everyone else is kind of awful (well, everyone who you get a decent insight in to). Adam, in particular, starts off as a bratty loser, and stays a bratty loser, right through the end. It kind of seems like the idea is that Adam becomes the new Mike, but there’s no exposition or hints to support this really. He’s just a bit of a fuck up.
Look, it’s not a bad film. Channing Tatum is really enigmatic on screen, and since he’s experienced this life style, he plays his part beautifully. And shit, he can dance. And actually, there are some great laugh-out-loud moments (one featuring a penis pump that actually made me snort Frozen Coke up my nose). But I feel like this could have gone to a really interesting place, and explored a lot of what makes exotic dancing so lucrative but also so damaging. The direction is all over the place, and that’s a shame, but it doesn’t ruin the film. You’ve just got to accept that the tone set at the beginning of the film doesn’t really live up to the actual narrative and performances themselves.
But still, I got to see Joe Manganiello sewing a gold g-string, whilst wearing glasses. Which was awesome.