Magic Mike (2012)
★★ / ★★★★
Adam (Alex Pettyfer), a nineteen-year-old who lost his football scholarship, lands a construction job and meets Mike (Channing Tatum) at the site, a male stripper who hopes to start his own business someday. Recognizing a bit of himself in Adam, Mike introduces the college dropout to his team, the Cock-Rocking Kings of Tampa (Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Adam Rodriguez), led by a former stripper named Dallas (Matthew McConaughey). Adam quickly learns the requirements of the job, but his hard-partying ways soon catch up to him while Mike considers stepping out.
“Magic Mike,” written by Reid Carolin and directed by Steven Soderbergh, offers outrageous and funny stripteases, but it barely works as a dramatic piece. This makes the picture halfway tolerable—really shining when sinewy men are performing on stage but deadly dull when the screenplay forcefully injects sensitive moments between Mike making an effort to change his station in life and Mike regaling Adam’s sister, Brooke (Cody Horn).
Scenes that take place in the strip club are at times executed with effervescent energy, one wonders why these guys are in Tampa and not Las Vegas. Bomer, Manganiello, and Rodriguez are not given much character to play, but they do make the best of their few lines. Because their characters remain a mystery for the most part, we are barely able to understand the group dynamics of the team. Mike, Adam, and Dallas get plenty of screen time, but that is only half of the so-called family. The film’s dramatic elements might have commanded more resonance if we knew, at the very least, every member almost equally.
Mike’s ambition to change himself into something more than a male stripper does not make a big enough impact. There is a scene that takes place in a bank. It is a well-executed piece because it shows two things. First, despite Mike’s compelling charm, the kind that women swoon over, it can only take him so far. Second, one can deduce that Mike, even though he is articulate, probably has a limited education and is insecure about it. He reverts to acting defensive when he is given reasons why he must be turned down, as if the person in front of him could read him like a book.
The material needs more scenes like this because it tells us about a character without being too obvious. It requires us to participate by weighing what someone might be thinking based on our real experiences with others. Instead, the picture has the tendency to show stripping every five to ten minutes—even though about half of them are not that memorable or entertaining. One might argue that these are used as crutches.
There is a sweetness in Mike and Brooke’s budding relationship. I enjoyed that Brooke is tough and uptight on paper but Horn plays her with a certain level of openness. Thus, even though at first she feels like sandpaper, over time we experience that there is a softness to her. I liked that Mike is the more overtly sensitive of the pair. I could not find fault with Tatum in the role whether his character is on- or off-stage. If only the picture followed his example.