A friend of mine has already turned ‘Magic Mike’ into a verb. A verb that could be used in the sentence, “What am I doing tonight? A glass of wine, a warm bath– maybe a Magic Mike.” She hasn’t even seen the film, just the trailer in which Channing Tatum and his beefcake co-stars strip to high-energy dance music.
With the unlikely popularity of 50 Shades of Grey and the incredible success of this film ($100 million so far from a $7 million budget) it seems that this has been a winter for, well, Magic Mike-ing.
The difference between Magic Mike and 50 Shades of Grey however, is that this film offers quite a lot more than just titillation. Magic Mike is also a surprisingly effective buddy film and workplace drama, doused with some really good, natural ribald comedy.
‘Magic’ Mike Lane (Channing Tatum) is a smart, charming thirty-year-old guy who works hard as a roofer and stripper, but can’t quite get his piece of the American dream, which he sees as running a custom-furniture business. He drives a new truck, but covers the dash in plastic, has exotic sex frequently with bi-sexual Joanna (Olivia Munn) makes decent money and seems to have a life that’s pretty good, if not a little aimless.
The Kid (Alex Pettyfer) is a nineteen-year-old former-footballer, who’s thrown away a college scholarship and is down on his luck in a new town, crashing at his attractive but straight-laced sister’s apartment.
Mike meets The Kid at a roofing job, befriends him and takes him to his other place of business, the Xquisite All Male Review. There The Kid is introduced to the club’s owner Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), who gets him stripping when one of the regulars takes ill.
It’s at this point I’d like to make special mention of Matthew McConaughey. Playing the sleazy, buffed Tandoori-orange owner/operator of the club, McConaughey seems to have hit on the role of a lifetime, and one that he seems to have been incongruously playing in other films for the last twenty years. Now his whole career makes sense to me.
Mike tries to court The Kid’s sister Brooke (Cody Horne), who doesn’t seem to have a moral objection to the stripping, but doesn’t want it to be a part of her life. With a little help from Brooke, Mike starts to question his lifestyle.
Magic Mike runs on a well-trodden track, and one that’s usually reserved for films about men, for men. You could pretty easily take top-of-his-game Mike, talented-but-morally-blank The Kid and irredeemably-corrupt Dallas out of their all male review and into a custom auto-repair shop, boxing gym or crime syndicate, throw in some action scenes and you’ve got a pretty blokey film.
That film probably wouldn’t quite get the same return of interest as Magic Mike, which has been marketed expertly if not necessarily precisely.
As he’s done twice before, director Steven Soderbergh has built Magic Mike around a star with almost unparallel authority (previously MMA fighter Gina Carano in Haywire and adult actress Sasha Grey in The Girlfriend Experience, and here around ex-stripper Channing Tatum), but experienced actor Tatum hold scenes in a way Grey and Carano just couldn’t.
The Kid and Brooke disappear into the scenery sometimes, but style, humour and authority radiates out of Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey’s performances. Both Tatum and the film do start to falter late in the piece, and the last, slightly-preachy act inches towards a fairly obvious resolution, but for the most part you will have a good goddamn good time with this film, no matter how you Magic Mike or with what.