Look back at those films’ release dates and you’ll see Tatum racked up three box office winners in three months. Now we can add “Magic Mike” to his list of accomplishments this year. And based on the amount of salivating women (and quite a few men) that threw their money at ticket windows last weekend, it could be one of his biggest hits yet.
Tatum plays Mike, a guy working several day jobs in hopes of getting his custom furniture business up and running. But none of those occupations pay as well as what he does at night: dance at one of Tampa’s most popular male strip clubs. On that stage, he’s the titular Magic Mike, a superstar who keeps the customers screaming and handing over their cash.
That makes the club owner, Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), a very happy man. He keeps promising to show his gratitude by giving Mike a stake in the business, but it hasn’t happened yet. Mike stopped holding his breath a long time ago. That doesn’t mean he isn’t still loyal to the club, so when he spots a potential new recruit in the Kid (Alex Pettyfer) he quickly scoops him up.
Mike takes the Kid, a 19-year-old college dropout, under his wing and introduces him to Dallas, the other dancers (played by Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, Adam Rodriguez and Kevin Nash) and the perks of the trade. As you’d imagine, that includes lots of women, lots of attention and lots of money. It’s a young guy’s dream, but it doesn’t earn the approval of Brooke (Cody Horn), the Kid’s big sister.
She’s also a woman Mike would like to get to know better, but that’s not going to happen until he decides what he really wants to do with his life. That decision becomes even more pressing when circumstances force him to realize he can’t be Magic Mike forever.
Let’s get all the jokes out of the way. Yes, this flick (loosely based on Tatum’s real-life experiences in the industry) will likely be forever known as “that male stripper movie,” even though there’s more to the story. And yes, I was excited about seeing it — even though I’m as straight as it gets — for several reasons.
Number one: I will see literally any movie Steven Soderbergh makes. He’s one of our greatest living directors and he’s currently in the middle of a crazy hot streak (“The Informant,” “Contagion,” the aforementioned “Haywire” and now “Magic Mike”). I hope he continues to delay the retirement he’s been pondering.
Next, Tatum and McConaughey have earned my moviegoing trust with their recent choices, particularly since the latter seems to have finally grown tired of making the same crappy romantic comedy over and over again. At least that’s what he seems to be saying with “The Lincoln Lawyer,” “Bernie” and his upcoming slate of projects. Both actors are flat-out great here, with Tatum achieving a career-best performance and McConaughey playing up his public persona in ways both amusing and surprisingly dark.
Those interested in the film’s more risqué scenes will be pleased to know that, yes, there is plenty of skin on display and the routines are well choreographed. There’s even a bonus for the guys being dragged to the theater against their will: the movie is an equal opportunity flesh-peddler. The ladies show off just as much skin as the guys.
A couple of things bugged me about “Magic Mike,” particularly the afterschool special route Reid Carolin’s screenplay takes in the second half. It seems tacked-on and also makes the movie feel about 25 minutes too long. I also wish they would’ve found a stronger actress to play Brooke. Horn isn’t terrible, but she’s easily the flick’s weakest link.
Mock if you want, but you’ll be missing out on a genuinely entertaining comedic drama. A good story is a good story, period. It’s even better when that story is somewhat original, which should be lauded in this less-than-spectacular summer movie season filled with sequels, remakes and superheroes.
“Magic Mike” is rated R for pervasive sexual content, brief graphic nudity, language and some drug use.