Much like the characters in the world it depicts, Magic Mike is ultimately pretty shallow, and meaningless. This is, of course, not to say that people who are shallow and lacking meaning in their lives are somehow less worthy of understanding and empathy. It is to say that making a movie without rich, complex, interesting characters can be pretty tough.
Channing Tatum stars as Mike, an “entrepreneur” who works as a roofer and has an almost non-existent auto-detailing business as a way of maybe trying to make himself forget that he is really a thirty year old stripper. Sure, we sort of find out that he has some dreams of another career but it is clear that, not only is he very good stripper, he really enjoys being a really good stripper.
Alex Pettyfer is Alex, aimless now and living with his spunky older sister, Brooke (Cody Horn), after his own dreams derailed and, while the performances are good all over, that is about as deep as any of the characterization goes. Alex and Mike meet by chance on a roofing job. Later, through an even more improbable series of events, they meet again, Mike gets Adam a job at the strip club and before you can say “I saw that one coming” one of the strippers gets sick just as he is supposed to take the stage. What follows is about as “been there, done that” as any show-biz movie in — maybe even beyond — recent memory. There is the wide-eyed “virgin” initiated and quickly intoxicated by the lifestyle, there is the jaded veteran who wonders if this is as good as it is ever going to be for him and, of course, there is the man who runs the show, knows he’s got a good thing going and will stop at nothing to see it get bigger and better — Matthew McConaughey as Dallas, an older, former stripper who has still got “it” but it is more interested in seeing the cash roll in than he is in rolling around on the stage half naked himself.
Steven Soderberg’s film can never quite make up its mind about what it wants to be. Not compelling enough to be a drama nor funny enough to be a comedy, it settles for an awkward, not entirely successful mix of both when it probably would have been better if it committed itself one way or the other. For his part, Soderbergh does deliver an entertaining, fairly well realized vision, unlike so many of his recent half-baked efforts like Haywire, Contagion, and The Informant! that feel like rough drafts of films. That said, a fully realized vision of a shallow, meaningless film is hardly cause to throw cash at the screen.
In the end, however, few people are going to see Magic Mike because they are hoping to get a behind the scenes look at the life of a male stripper, they are going to see “abs on parade” and they will not be disappointed. Magic Mike is Flashdance meets American Gigolo with less story.
Magic Mike opens today in Philly-area theaters.
Author: David J. Greenberg
David J. Greenberg teaches screenwriting at University of the Arts and Arcadia University. He has been hired to write or doctor over 30 feature film screenplays. His film “The True Meaning of Cool” won an award from the American Film Institute. davidjgreenberg.com