|Alex Pettyfer (left) with Matthew McConaughey (right, in a scene-stealing performance) in Magic Mike|
Magic Mike Review
by Joshua Handler
2012, 110 minutes
Rated R for pervasive sexual content, brief graphic nudity, language, and some drug use
Magic Mike is Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh’s (Traffic, the Ocean’s series, Erin Brockovich) third film to be released in the past 12 months and is by far the best. Contagion was a chilling, but not great thriller, and Haywire was awful. Magic Mike, however, is a complete treat because it is not just a movie about stripping. Calling this a film solely about stripping is like calling Paul Thomas Anderson’s masterpiece, Boogie Nights a film solely about porn.
One of many places where Haywire failed was the action scenes. They were boring and not electrifying like they should have been. I guess Soderbergh decided to channel the energy into the stripping scenes, Magic Mike’s equivalent to Haywire’s action scenes. While they do not fill even half of the film’s running time, there are quite a few scenes and they are electrifying. The actors seem to be having a great time and provide great energy. The camerawork in these scenes greatly complements the actors and adds to the fun.
When Magic Mike is not focused on a stripping scene, it focuses on the story of Mike (Channing Tatum), a male stripper in Florida, who takes a young man, Adam (Alex Pettyfer), under his wing. Screenwriter Reid Carolin’s characters are well developed and his dialogue is quite humorous, but nothing would not work without the fantastic acting talent involved.
Much of the reason why the film works is because of Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, and the supporting cast members who play strippers. Channing Tatum, himself a former stripper, is not historically known for his acting abilities or performing in great films. However, Magic Mike and 21 Jump Street will most likely change that. When paired with Jonah Hill in 21 Jump Street, Tatum and Hill played off each other with Tatum showing his natural charm and superb comedic abilities. Now, in Magic Mike, Tatum delivers something even more. Whenever he is onscreen, Tatum exudes charisma. He walks and dances around this movie like he is a natural. His confidence in the material obviously shows and the energy he brings, especially to the strip club scenes is infectious. In those scenes, he shows his ease on stage and what a talented dancer he is. While he may do especially well in the strip club scenes, he does about as well when he needs to do a dramatic scene.
Great as Channing Tatum is, Matthew McConaughey steals the show as the strip club owner, Dallas. Like Tatum, McConaughey is not known for being in great movies, but 2012 may be the year to break that. He has been in more independent films and in no romantic comedies (those are what he is known for). He has thus far starred in Bernie (a fun supporting performance), Magic Mike, and the upcoming Killer Joe (to be reviewed on Monday), Mud, and The Paperboy (the later two premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May). In Magic Mike, he has a field day with his character, making him as sly, comical, and magnetic as possible. Every time he was onscreen, he shined. He, like Tatum, exudes energy and was truly a pleasure to watch have such a great time with this film.
The supporting cast that portrayed the strippers were great and added character to the film.
While most of the film is fun, but not light, there are parts where it gets dark, particularly when Adam’s new life as a stripper takes its toll. This provides a nice dramatic balance to the comedic tone of the rest of the film. In many ways (as some have pointed out), Magic Mike is similar to Boogie Nights, a film that follows the rise and fall of a porn star in the 1970s and early 1980s. They both have a rise-and-fall story that starts off funny and light, but gradually grows darker and darker. The difference is that you will feel great leaving Magic Mike, but will most likely feel down after finishing the 156 minutes of Boogie Nights.
Overall, Magic Mike is Steven Soderbergh’s best film (at least of the many I’ve seen) since Ocean’s 11. He has the best script and the most dedicated cast. It is shocking that this movie was filmed in about three weeks. This film shows a great director at the top of his game.