Thursday, July 5, 2012

Magic Mike

Channing Tatum is Magic Mike
*** out of ****

Magic Mike is part of director Steven Soderbergh's agenda to make decent movies before his retirement that will have an easy draw through sub-genre association. There was that disease movie. Then there was that hot chick who kicks-ass movie. Now comes that male-stripper movie. Soderbergh may be playing into the movie-going public's shallow nature for how he chooses to draw them into the theater but once they're in, he delivers something of quality that does not condescend.

Magic Mike has Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, and Joe Manganiello as characters in the world of male stripping. The movie shows them strip with excellent choreography, yes, but it's about the back-stage world of their lives. The movie stays very simple but true. At one point, the main character, Mike, played by Tatum is shocked to realize that someone he admires only thinks of him as a stripper. It is as if he never thought that anyone who has gotten to know him would think of him that way.

Mike is very charismatic and fancies himself to be a jack-of-all-trades who uses his strip job as a way to save money. As he takes the nineteen-year-old Adam (Alex Pettyfer) under his wing to learn how to live the way he does, he sees the poor kid drop into every pitfall that comes with the business. 

There are many women in Mike's promiscuous life but only two of significance. One is Joanna (Olivia Munn) who keeps Mike sexually satisfied through late night booty calls, sometimes with extra partners. Mike is wanting to be closer too her in a more serious way but she resists. Then there is Adam's sister Brooke (Cody Horn) who seems to like Mike but keeps him at a cautionary distance and is afraid to trust him and his lifestyle around her brother.

Mike is a dreamer but is having trouble realizing that his life, exciting as it is, has reached a dead-end. Tatum is a producer on this film and it is said to be loosely based on his experience as a male stripper before becoming a movie star. The films feels very honest. It captures a sleazy sub-culture in Tampa, Florida and doesn't ever attempt to demonize or put a glorified spin on it as misunderstood. It's just straight-forward by showing the characters and their joy of success and shame of failure. Like Soderbergh's recent work, it doesn't aim high and as a result it avoids cheap sensationalism and delivers a good drama untainted by superficial conclusions.

...and McConaughey says "Alright, Alright, Alright!" a lot. Ha! He's so good at being a douche.

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