D: Steven Soderbergh
S: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Cody Horn, Matthew McConaughey
We all have our problems, that’s for sure. So, a heavily-chiseled hunk who lives in the lap of faux luxury won’t exactly fit everyone’s “embattled hero” prototype. That’s the challenge at hand for director Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Reid Carolin in making Magic Mike.
Inspired by Channing Tatum’s brief career as a stripper, this edgy but uneven drama explores the blood, sweat and tears that go with the strip club business. Tatum plays Mike Lane, a wannabe furniture designer by day and a strip dancer by night. Together with his den-mates Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello), Tito (Adam Rodriguez), Ken (Matt Bomer), and Tarzan (Kevin Nash), he makes the ladies salivate at will as a regular performer in the Xquisite Dance Club. But they’re not just strippers, mind you. They’re strippers with dreams. They each dream of a life beyond their meager income and the confines of their Tampa hometown. The plot thickens when a 19-year-old slacker, aptly nicknamed The Kid (Alex Pettyfer), joins their posse. Something that would eventually be the latter’s undoing.
Magic Mike starts out fun, with the MTV-style dance sequences providing the necessary visual goods. Tatum effectively balances sensitivity and machismo as the lead beefcake, while McConaughey exudes glorified sleaze as the head of the Xquisite pack. There’s also catharsis to spare when the guys, especially The Kid, hit their downward spirals.
“Debauchery destroys dreams” seems to be the underlying theme here. While that pursuit of depth prevents the film from turning into Striptease-with-men, Magic Mike ultimately suffers from thinly-written supporting characters and sluggish pacing.
Granted that there’s supposedly more to it than cinematic bumping and grinding, its sincere intentions are drowned by all the froth. Carolin’s script barely explores the psyche of the strippers. Instead, it meanders too much on unnecessary dialogue and Mike’s tepid flirtation with The Kid’s sister, Brooke (Bland performance by Cody Horn).
It also doesn’t help that the local release was marred by too many confusing cuts. Apart from the reduced rear exposure, the loose ends of the plot feel even more loose. Eye candy seems to be the only strong suit left for Magic Mike, a film that falters whenever the characters stop gyrating.