Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Matthew McConaughey
It was a bit awkward attending the midnight premiere of Magic Mike as a male, entering a packed theater full of giggling members of the opposite sex gleefully anticipating Sir Tatum and friends in all their male stripper glory. Although Soderbergh’s latest features what you’d expect of a cinematic endeavor centered on a troupe of said entertainers, his adroitness in handling Reid Carolin’s intelligent, well-rounded script ensures that all intricacies of the central character himself are touched upon in equal measure, assuring us that Magic Mike not only “wants more,” but ismore.
Flip-flopping between the borderline subversive showmanship, business “ethics” and the one-dimensional lives of the professionals at its core, the film explores all walks of this dead-end career path, chronicling the life of Magic Mike himself as he takes naive, starry-eyed youngster Adam (Alex Pettyfer) under his wing. While at first agreeing to watch over Adam, show him the ropes and give him a taste of what his coworkers consider to be the American Dream, Mike predictably wants more than what’s expected of him, shedding light on his aspirations as a furniture designer among other things littering his surprisingly mature, business-oriented mindset.
Gazing hopelessly at a reflection of himself as an attractive upstart in the male entertainment biz, Mike watches almost helplessly as Adam travels down the same perilous path he once did, ensuring us that another life could potentially hang in the balance not too far down the road. For as cliched as Magic Mike‘s subplot involving the titular performer’s longing for both a sense of viable purpose and meaningful companionship is, Soderbergh sidesteps melodrama while simultaneously shying away from appealing solely to flesh-hungry female filmgoers. Subsequently, the events that transpire are predictable, exposing us to the inevitable as Mike continually realizes the drawbacks of sticking to this particular career path for the better part of a decade.
Matthew McConaughey as the prototypical veteran and proverbial father figure Dallas is as lamebrained as they come, but in an appropriate manner. Seeing nothing but the glitz and glamor that coincide with the lifestyle he’s embraced for what could be considered an eternity, Dallas begins to rub off on Adam like he once did Mike, further assuring us that in between bouts of provocative nude male choreography, there’s a soul that warrants exposure at frequent intervals.
With stellar performances across the board to further accentuate Magic Mike‘s deftly balanced sensibilities and a sunbathed hue that radiates over its gorgeous Floridian locales, Soderbergh further proves that he’s easily one of the most versatile auteurs of his generation. Coupling the business-oriented festivities with a discernible, if subdued bit of heartfelt sincerity, Channing Tatum’s Mike is a surprisingly dynamic character amid the exceedingly provocative nature of his profession. Deftly exploring both the ups and downs of the industry at its core, Carolin’s script remains one of the more original efforts in recent memory as it avoids taking itself too seriously while alternately exploring the true nature of an individual struggling to break free from the mold he’s snugly fit into all these years. To put it plainly, Magic Mike has something for everyone, not just the ladies, so do yourself a huge favor and embrace it with an open mind.