- Rated R
- Buy the BD
All photos © Warner Bros.
Reviewed by David Medsker
here will not be a single review of “Magic Mike” that does not reference “Boogie Nights.” Not one. So let’s get the comparisons out of the way, shall we? Yes, “Magic Mike” is “Boogie Nights” with strippers. The thrilling highs, the devastating lows, the drugs, the impetuousness and arrogance of youth, it’s all here. Also, Channing Tatum shows his ass. That last bit will probably serve as the proverbial spoonful of sugar to help the flawed story structure go down, at least as far as the female audience is concerned, but there is too much medicine in this movie. It’s nice to see a stripper movie that has its heart in the right place, but it’s a pity that it seems unsure about which character it’s supposed to be following.
Mike (Channing Tatum) fancies himself a modern day renaissance man. He works at a construction site, though his dream is to make custom designed furniture, and he finances this dream by moonlighting as a stripper. One day at the site he meets Adam (Alex Pettyfer), a handsome but clueless 19-year-old. The two run into each other again later that night – at which point Adam has already lost the construction job – and Mike persuades strip club owner Dallas (Matthew McConaughey, in the role he was born to play) to give Adam a job helping out while Mike and his fellow strippers do their thing. When “Tarzan” (Kevin Nash) falls ill, Mike persuades Dallas to let “the kid” go out there, and despite being scared out of his wits, he’s a hit with the ladies. Mike promises Adam’s protective sister Brooke (Cody Horn) that he’ll watch after him, but as Adam gets a taste for the life, he becomes harder to control, which causes Mike to question his own priorities.
It’s tempting to fault the movie for playing the drug card (that’s so predictable), but let’s be reasonable: drugs play a significant role in stripper culture. Also, the movie would be a crashing bore if Tampa’s finest slices of beefcake were teetotalers, so the drug plot, while cliché, is a necessity. The bigger problem is in building the budding relationship between Mike and Brooke. Cody Horn wears a Hilary Swank-ish scowl from beginning to end, and it’s tough to see what Mike sees in her. Does he view her as a challenge after years of easy sex? Does he see her as a gateway toward a more normal life or, at the very least, a way to resolve his own contradictions? Whatever the reason for their love story, they do a poor job of selling it, though it’s debatable whether it’s the screenplay or Horn’s performance that is to blame. Both, probably.
Good thing, then, that Tatum turns in yet another solid performance as the deeply conflicted Mike. The role allows him to show off his formidable dancing chops (wait until you see the scene of him on the bridge), but more importantly, he gets his first character of depth. Mike is smarter than the other strippers, but he’s not as smart as he likes to think he is, and he does a commendable job of conveying Mike’s limitations. Pettyfer, on the other hand, becomes less and less developed as the movie progresses. We see him making these terrible mistakes, but the change in his personality is not explored in depth, and after a while it feels like watching Dirk Diggler in a movie about Reed Rothchild. The supporting character becomes the main focus, and the audience isn’t getting his whole story. The film feels incomplete because of it.
There are lots of things to like about “Magic Mike,” but a few key ingredients, mostly story-related, prevent the film from hitting its mark. You can almost see director Steven Soderbergh at odds with himself, torn between making a mainstream film or a gritty indie, and ultimately doing neither.
Two-Disc Blu-ray Review:
Considering that it was one of the most profitable movies released so far this year ($7 million budget, $158 million worldwide gross), the Blu-ray for "Magic Mike" is a surprisingly bare-bones affair. There are only three bonus features, and one of those is simply the dance routines from the movie cut together, which barely counts as a bonus feature. The other two bits are a featurette on making the movie, and a few extended takes on some of the dance routines that were used in a montage, the best of which is Matt Bomer pretending to be a wind-up doll to a blindfolded bride-to-be.