Review: 'Magic Mike' not just a pretty face

Director, great cast flesh out characters, story

Published On: Jun 29 2012 10:45:27 AM CDT
Channing Tatum in Magic Mike

Wait a minute. We all have the wrong idea about "Magic Mike." Chalk it up to the marketing campaign that presents "Mike" as light fare with pecs. Here's the rub. What appears to be a beefcake movie that should be dumb as a box of rocks is actually a smartly directed and acted film that's more "Less Than Zero" than "Flashdance."

Sure, there's plenty of man flesh, and who can't get enough of Channing Tatum busting a move in BVDs? Director Steven ("Sex, Lies and Videotape") Soderbergh gives us that, but then ups the ante with a thoughtful take on the hard-knock life and seedy underbelly of a group of male strippers.

Slightly influenced by Tatum's early career (he was a dancer in an all-male revue and is a producer on the film as well as starring in the title role), the action takes place at Club Xquisite in Tampa, Fla., owned by the larger-than-life Dallas (Matthew McConaughey). The club owner knows he has a hot commodity with Mike, his star attraction. But Mike is socking away money for a future that doesn't involve stripping down to his skivvies. He makes custom furniture. He's got a part-time day job, too, as a roofer. It's there that he meets Adam (Alex Pettyfer from last year's "I Am Number Four"), a 19-year-old drifter who sleeps on his sister's couch. Mike was mentored by Dallas and now it's his turn, so he takes Adam under his wing. You can see where this is going as Adam ends up having too much of a good time with the excess of cash he's raking in as Club Xquisite's The Kid, and that's when big brother Mike is left to bail him out.

Tatum, who has been criticized previously for his wooden acting, is slowly moving up the charts, proving his comic timing in the recent "21 Jump Street" and now showing a range of emotions and box-office draw charisma in "Mike." The magical pairing here, though, is Tatum with Soderbergh as the two are able to work together in pulling off the slightly off-kilter vision for this film.

"Magic Mike" plays like more of an independent, art house picture than a mainstream megaplex showing, which may prove to be a disappointment for some. But there won't be much room for nay saying when McConaughey is on screen. Here, the actor goes for broke with a no-holds-barred performance that's over the top, eccentric to the max, and just plain engaging. He's in rare form in a scene where he's showing the new Kid some of his moneymaker moves, wearing a midriff-baring shirt and acting as serious as Baryshnikov teaching ballet.

The women in Mike's life are Joanna, a psychology student who enjoys private sessions with Mike, but wants no emotional attachment. Olivia Munn plays the free-wheeling bisexual with a cool resistance. Cody Horn (known for her recurring role on "Rescue Me") portrays Brooke, Adam's big sister, who refuses to be taken in by Mike's lifestyle or his good looks. Horn is a natural beauty (no doubt she inherited her good looks from her mother, '80s supermodel Cindy Horn) that plays the capable Brooke with a simple ease. Horn gets by on her own merit in the film although it would be an easy swipe to say she got the part because she's the daughter of former Warner Bros. president and COO Alan Horn (the film is a Warner Bros. picture).

The ensemble of strippers put on quite a show, although they don't get enough screen time; you never really find out their stories. How did each of them arrive at Club Xquisite? The actors who portray them are familiar faces from the small screen: Matt Bomer (USA Network's "White Collar"), as Ken, every girl's perfect dream date; Joe Manganiello (HBO's "True Blood") as a dancer whose stage name needs no explanation; Adam Rodriguez ("CSI: Miami) as the Latin flavored Tito, and WWE's Kevin Nash as the wild man Tarzan.

Don't let "Magic Mike" fool you at face value; deep down it has brains as well as brawn, and it's a surefire sizzler for summer.