When I saw trailers for Magic Mike in early 2012 I thought it looked like the film I was least likely to see, ever. Despite excelling in 21 Jump Street, Channing Tatum was still one of my least favourite actors and I was yet to see Matthew McConaughey’s fantastic turn in Killer Joe so he was still just Mahogany McConaughey to me. Added to that inauspicious line up was Alex Pettyfer who I had only ever seen in Beastly which happens to be one of my least favourite films of all time. So the cast was awful, what about the plot? Male Strippers. Next. So all of that plus fucking Rihanna warbling over the the trailer made Magic Mike a film I felt I had to avoid. But then I started reading snippets of reviews and comments from people who weren’t the typical wet lipped Tatum fans and wondered if it was actually worth checking out.
‘Magic’ Mike Lane (Tatum) has dreams of designing and selling custom made furniture but for now earns a living in a number of ways which include roofing and more lucratively, stripping. On a roofing job he meets Adam (Pettyfer) who Mike introduces to the world of male stripping. Adam, known as ‘the kid’ quickly picks up the trade and brings in much needed money which soon goes to his head. Meanwhile Mike enters into a flirtatious friendship with Adam’s straight laced sister Brooke (Cody Horn) while club owner Dallas (McConaughey) dreams of ruling over an empire of strip clubs and all the women and money that comes with it.
So was I wrong to dismiss Magic Mike as a piece of lady wetting nonsense? Pretty much, yes. Although far from a great film, there’s a lot more going on than just an excuse for cinemas to get a tax break on their seat cleaners. The story is a little formulaic but I enjoyed the rise and fall of the various characters and thought that they were generally well written. There are no major twists and much of the plot can be seen coming but the film exceeded my expectations in a number of areas with the plot being perhaps the most obvious area. Although basic, I liked Mike’s simple goals and pleasures and he isn’t who you expect him to be, something he attempts to make clear to Brooke. Their back and forth relationship can be seen a mile off but I enjoyed it. McConaughey’s Dallas is a realistic character and Adam goes through the typical rise and fall and rise of the bad boy, waster character. The character arcs aren’t astoundingly original but I went with them. A problem arises towards the end when I didn’t feel as though Adam’s story was rounded off neatly.
The acting is much better than I expected. The film catches Matthew McConaughey in his ‘McConaissance’ and despite being naked for most of the film; he is far removed from the topless rom com crap that he spent a decade bouncing around. He’s turning into an actor whose films I’ll actually see because he’s in them, rather than avoid for the same reasons. He still makes my girlfriend’s skin crawl though which I was thankful for in this movie. Channing Tatum, despite still looking like a potato, also shows more acting depth here than I’ve seen from him before. He’s hardly De Niro but I didn’t hate him which is a huge improvement on most of his oeuvre. His dancing is also pretty spectacular. Luckily my girlfriend also hates him. Few. I’m still yet to be convinced of Alex Pettyfer’s talents in front of the camera and he doesn’t match his co-stars but he doesn’t let the film down. Cody Horn reminded me a lot of Kristen Stewart which is never good but she fits the role. The supporting cast of strippers and hangers on down rarely stand out much unless you are my girlfriend in which case Joe Manganiello pretty much stands out in every scene.
I’m probably not the right person to be commenting on the stripping as it didn’t even make me horny once. Not once. Rubbish. But the dancing was impressive and there were a couple of laughs. The ‘visuals’ made me feel really sorry for myself as I looked down at my heap of jelly covered in skin with shame. For the most part the actors kept their trouser monkeys in their cages but there were two notable exceptions to this, both of which were funny.
Soderbergh shot the entire film, bar the scenes inside the club through a double straw filter which gives it a greenish yellow tint which works well. It captures the sort of heat and excitement that surrounds the film and its Tampa location. The lens just tints every frame subtly but creates the sort of dirty Southern look similar to Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Killer Joe and gives the movie a greasy and grimy feel. The Director also handles the frenetic atmosphere of the club really well and I enjoyed the off kilter angles of the scenes late on when drugs become involved. They help to unnerve the viewer and put us in the shoes of the characters that are on their way up or down.
Magic Mike may appeal to the screaming hordes of women interested in oiled men but it cleverly includes something for those who aren’t excited by that side of things. Much like a good Pixar film it has different levels and will be appreciated by differently depending on the person. While the script has its flaws and is hardly ground breaking, it’s generally strong and there are a couple of decent performances from actors who have rarely impressed me before. Overall it’s an average film which is much, much more than I was expected and considering how I came to the movie, that counts as a solid endorsement.
- The film is loosely based on Channing Tatum's life as a stripper when he was in his late teens, although most of the events are fictional.
- A sequel is in the works with Tatum set to co-Direct. As of April 2013 it is in the planning stages and is set to be a road movie.
- Nicholas Winding Refn was hired as Director but pulled out due to scheduling conflict. (I'd have liked to have seen that film!)
- During Matthew McConaughey's striptease the extras got a bit over excited and ripped his G-String off.