Oh boy! Oh, ab-tastic, oiled up boy! Please set your jaws to agape, its time to review the muscle-bound male revue that is Magic Mike.
Yes, what a tedious task it is to behold Steven Soderbergh’s latest cinematic treat, which flexes and gyrates for your viewing pleasure. In fact the shamelessly frivolous fun proves a perfect antidote to the near-toxic Contagion(which should have been a TV series), and even gives Soderbergh’s last misfire – Haywire – a reason for being: it introduced him to Channing Tatum. For Magic Mike is drawn from Tatum’s experiences as a male stripper, so while I may – ahem - have no first-hand knowledge of male strip clubs (except for vague memories of Manpower adverts from the Jamie Durie days), I’m more than happy to take Tatum’s word for it.
Soderbergh has spun Tatum’s experiences into a generational glimpse behind the g-stings and Velcro. The titular Tatum plays an entrepreneurial 30-year-old, who ‘dances’ and does construction as a way to finance his real dream: creating custom furniture. It’s not that Mike’s unhappy with his lifestyle: the film’s opening threesome would suggest it’s none too shabby, but he’s upwardly mobile and looking to don a suit rather than rip it off.
While at a roofing gig, Mike meets Adam (Alex Pettyfer), thenceforth known only as The Kid, a college drop out who follows him around like a puppy, and in one rather endearing scene, even suggests they should become best friends. Mike brings The Kid along to Xquisite, whereupon the delightfully dazed, but not so confused club owner Dallas (Matthew McConaughey) helps him grind his way into stripping success. But The Kid also comes with a sister, Brooke (Cody Horn), whose blunt banter turns Mike’s head, even if her delivery is so low key you sometimes wonder if she has a pulse.
So the plot is paper-thin, with some drugs thrown in to raise the stakes, but really, you won’t care. Because Magic Mike isn’t going for heart like The Full Monty; it’s going for titillation, with a small side of post-GFC commentary if you care to look. Chances are, though, you won’t see past the abs, and that’s just fine too.
To be sure there are rippling abs a plenty, as Magic Mike comes into its own on stage. But considering only Tatum steps up with the dancing chops, Soderbergh seems to relish in making the rest of the acts a little craptastic. The oiled ensemble (Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, Adam Rodriguez and Kevin Nash) relies on high-concept costuming (Tarzan, policemen, firemen, you know the drill) and slightly stilted dancing, though their groin thrusting always seems to hit the beat. So too does McConaughey, who hilariously apes his own arrest by busting out a bongo. The pièce de résistance however is McConaughey’s climatic strip, which is so transcendently spectacular that it is more than worth the price of admission alone!
In fact McConaughey’s shirtless Dallas so thoroughly steals this film it’s hard to remember that it’s actually supposed to be Tatum’s gig. But while you may walk away with an eye-full of McConaughey, Tatum impresses in other ways. In a series of long takes between Mike and Brooke, Tatum displays an easy charm and effortless charisma that manages to thaw Horn’s relentlessly impassive performance. Tatum’s scenes with a similarly underplayed Pettyfer also show an actor at ease in his own skin, even when he’s showing an awful lot of it. So even if you don’t quite buy the emotional journey of Mike, you’ll fall for his onscreen magic.
This is a dream Friday night film. A couple of cocktails and a raucous group of friends will only add to the fun. Sure it looks sleek, and there’s some semblance of a story, but honestly all you need to do is check your brain at the door enjoy the show!
Published on TheVine
Australian release date: 26 July 2012