Movies: "Magic Mike" | Arts & Culture

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Movies: "Magic Mike"
Movies: "Magic Mike"

Steven Soderbergh is a filmmaker who veers between small, artsy movies ("Sex, Lies and Videotape," "Kafka") and box office crowd pleasers ("Ocean's Eleven," "Out of Sight").  With "Magic Mike," with its focus on male strippers, he's clearly going for the box office.  The trouble is, it feels more like one of those smaller movies.

I went to see this one on the strength of earlier, positive reviews (and was one of only a handful of men in the audience).  I'm not sure how the female moviegoers reacted to it -- there was no screaming of loud laughter that I could tell -- but with a few exceptions, "Magic Mike" did not work its magic on me.

The movie stars (and was co-produced by) Channing Tatum, who reportedly started his show-biz career as a stripper and model, then moved on to such movies as "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" and "21 Jump Street"  (in the latter, he turned in a credible performance as the befuddled half of an undercover cop duo in high school).  Here, he's Mike, an earnest entrepreneur, who divides his crowded schedule among roofing jobs, furniture making and stripping at a Tampa nightclub to the delight of groups of screaming women.

He takes pity on Adam (Alex Pettyfer), a messed-up college dropout on the roofing site and before you know it, Adam is stripping alongside Mike.  Adam's older sister Brooke (Cody Horn, daughter of a Warner Bros. honcho) is none too pleased, but gets Mike to promise he'll look after little brother.  Of course, things don't work out quite as planned.

That's pretty much it, plot-wise.

There's not much else to see here (except for some partial male and female nudity).  The Tampa club is tiny, most of the other scenes take place inside claustrophobic Florida apartment complexes, all with identical sand-colored decor.   Oh, wait, there's a draggy company picnic on a Florida island that looks more like a sandbar about go go under.

So what could possibly attract anyone to see this movie?  Two words: Matthew McConaughey.  

As Dallas, the owner and impresario of the club, he is simply terrific.  Not only does his persona dominate every scene he's in, he's a better showman and dancer than his entire troupe combined.   Plus he's 52 years old and in amazing shape.  He walks away with this movie the way Joel Gray did with "Cabaret."

Channing Tatum works hard to make Mike a believable character.  He certainly has the dance moves, but he's just too wooden offstage.  Same goes for Cody Horn:  she's a real-looking woman (as opposed to most of the strippers' girl-toys), but she doesn't give off any sparks.  Pettyfer's Adam brings nothing to the table whatsoever.  

The only performance of note beside McConaughey's is that of Olivia Munn (Sloan in the TV series "The Newsroom" and Chess Roberts in "Iron Man 2"), as Mike's go-to girl, whose study of psychology helps her survive the storyline.

"Magic Mike" was written by Reid Carolin, who not only co-produced it but also appears briefly as Brooke's boring boyfriend, Paul.  It was shot by Soderbergh himself.  

It's rated R for obvious reasons.  I give it a C at best, thanks largely to Matthew McConaughey's performance.





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