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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Magic Mike | Channing Tatum, Matthew McConnaughy, Alex Pettyfer, Cody Horn | Review

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Magic Mike

By Judy Thorburn

Set in the world of male strippers, Magic Mike is loosely based on Channing Tatum's true life experience before he hit it big as a movie star. Suffice to say, portraying the title character must have been a piece of cake, or better put, “beef”cake, for the former male stripper, since having been there and done that it was, by no means, a stretch for him. Movie audiences already know he is a talented dancer. That was evident in his feature film debut as the male lead in the dance flick, Step Up. Since then he has taken on more dramatic roles that prove he can also flex his acting muscles.

Directed by Stephen Soderberg (Traffic, Erin Brockovich) from a screenplay by first timer Reid Carolin, Tatum (who produced the film) plays Mike Lane, a roofer by day who works at night as lead male stripper, aka Magic Mike, with the Xquisite male revue in a Tampa nightclub run by the sleazy, narcissistic Dallas (Matthew McConnaughy) who is looking to expand to a bigger venue in Miami.

Stripping is only the means to an end for Mike, who has cashed in on his good looks and sexy moves to bring in the bucks he is saving up for something more important. Dabbling in car detailing and other sideline ventures, Mike considers himself an entrepreneur with dreams of starting his own custom furniture business. As for women, whom he attracts like a bee to honey, the only relationship Mike has with the opposite sex is with Joanna (Olivia Munn) a bisexual babe he can ring up for casual sex with no strings attached. Eventually he comes to realize that he wants a more fulfilling romantic connection, and it can't be with her.

Back at the club, the other hunky strippers in his troupe are Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello), Tito (Adam Rodriquez), Ken (Matt Bomer) and Tarzan (Kevin Nash). Their characters are never developed and so we never get to know much about them. They are mostly along for background eye candy since Mike is the central focus. It is all about him and the aftermath of what happens when he meets a struggling 19 year old young man named Adam (Alex Pettyfer, Beastly) on a construction site, whom he decides to take under his wing, nicknamed “The Kid”, and teach him the ropes of male stripping.

Homeless, Adam has been crashing on the couch of his more responsible sister, Brooke's (Cody Horn) apartment. The straight laced and serious medical assistant doesn't approve of her brother's new nighttime job and is unable to stop his downward foray into a world of easy money, drugs and loose woman. A contrived plot device involves the growing attraction that develops between Brooke and Mike and the arising conflict that ensues when she blames him for introducing her naïve bother to that seedy lifestyle.

Rather than sticking with a revealing, behind the scenes look at male stripping, the story turns a lot darker than the preview trailers lead you to believe, and becomes another formulaic tale ridden with cliches. That isn't to say there aren't a few insightful, comical moments before the story changes tone. A sequence that follow the guys shopping for highly suggestive thongs, is very funny and one backstage scene, where one of the strippers is shown using a pump to enhance his “manhood” prior to performing for the screaming, excited ladies, drew mixed reactions of shock, awe, and giggles at the preview screening I attended.

But, let's get real. The best scenes are the ones at the club where the hot hunks take their clothes off, showcasing their assets to choreographed dance routines (by Allison Faulk). Watching these sexy guys take to the stage is the main reason female and gay audiences will come in droves to see this movie. The strange thing is that while it is about male strippers, other than seeing their sculptured pecs and tight naked butts, more women are shown with their breasts exposed, and all are depicted as horny sluts, except for Brooke who acts as the moral voice of reason.

That said, Soderberg, who also is the director of photography (under a pseudonym “Peter Andrews”) and editor (as“Mary Ann Bernard”) gives his cast dialogue that appears natural, with the actors occasionally speaking over each other like in real life. Along with the handsome male specimens, these are the only reasons to see this movie.

The story is way too long and drags on. It is one thing to be turned on by the likeable, charismatic Tatum and his male co-stars. However, by the time Magic Mike reaches its unconvincing, tidy ending, the magic was already gone and I was turned off.

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