DIRECTED BY STEVEN SODERBERGH
Though it features enough bare ass to forestall accusations of a marketing bait-and-switch, audiences strictly eager for hen-party hijinks will get more than they bargained for in Magic Mike. Being a Steven Soderbergh joint, this tale of the travails of Tampa’s most enterprising male stripper is, in large part, a workplace procedural, albeit one in which the oiled-up employees specialize in spectacular, semi-nude feats of pelvic gyration.
Serving as a conceptual bedfellow to the director’s 2009 The Girlfriend Experience, Magic Mike is an of-the-moment look at commoditized sex in tenuous economic times. And, like the earlier project, it features a lead who knows the subject matter first-hand. The key difference, however, is that where porn star Sasha Grey leant both an authenticity and a chilliness to her portrayal of a high-class call girl, Magic Mike draws on Channing Tatum’s warm, winning charm as much as it does his real-life history of dropping his drawers on stage.
Particularly in its first half, Magic Mike is a blast, foregrounding the riotous routines and behind-the-scenes camaraderie at club Xquisite, an all-male dance revue. As the troupe’s star attraction, Tatum’s Mike is tasked by Xquisite’s preening beefcake proprietor (a sensational Matthew McConaughey) with mentoring a 19-year-old newcomer, nicknamed the Kid (Alex Pettyfer). Mike also strikes up a compellingly underplayed courtship with the Kid’s fetching but straight-laced big sister (Cody Horn).
The tone shifts slightly towards the latter stages, as Mike’s under-the-table table-dancing impedes his ambitions toward romance and respectable entrepreneurship. And, inevitably, his teenage charge is increasingly seduced by the job’s attendant temptations as the film approaches a fairly rote resolution.
Yet, on the whole, Magic Mike is an improbably ample package. Following a terrific turn in 21 Jump Street, Tatum once against demonstrates his able comedic chops, while McConaughey kills as a sleazy narcissist in assless chaps. And with Soderbergh at the helm, it’s predictably slick, but also smarter than it has any right to be, boasting the brains to compliment its impeccably manscaped brawn.