Steven Soderbergh‘s Magic Mike (Warner Bros., 6.29) is one of those summer films that comes along once in a blue moon — a fun romp filled with yoks and swagger and whoo-hoo, but also sharp, wise and shrewdly observed, and flush with indie cred. And quite funny for the first two-thirds. If this thing isn’t a fairly big hit in the States there’s going to be a lot of complaining on this site. I’m sick to death of people paying to see only the big crap movies while occasionally blowing off the really fine smaller ones.
Every frame in Magic Mike tells you someone super-smart and focused is running the operation, and Soderbergh (serving again as his own dp under the name Peter Andrews) lays on the atmosphere by using a faintly reddish sepia color scheme with a vaguely hung-over aura — his way of saying “Look, this is me, okay? Nothing too bright or luscious or HBO-attractive. We’re kickin’ it, obviously, but digging into character.”
Trailers always lie but the Magic Mike trailers are really lying. They’re selling only the cheap stuff. This thing is way better than what you might expect.
As Mike, a Tampa-residing, cock-rocking male stripper facing his 30s and the pressure to build his life (he dreams of being a high-end furniture designer) into something with a semblance of a future, Channing Tatum scores big-time with his first genuinely decent role and performance — I was completely in his corner all the way, admiring his skill and ease with a role that touches all the right bases. And 22 year-old newcomer Alex Pettyfer hits a ground-rule double as Adam, a.k.a. “The Kid” — a proverbial good-looking innocent whose arc acquaints us with the male-stripping realm and all the behavioral pitfalls.
Matthew McConaughey, whose career has really turned around over the last couple of years, hits a solid triple as Dallas, the owner-manager of the strip club Xquisite, nailing every line and delivering the requisite hoots and cock-of-the-walk sleaze. And Cody Horn, as Adam’s skeptical older sister, hits nothing but true notes in a role that’s basically about slowly shaking her head and nagging a bit, a character who’s always saying “Okay, guys, you’re making money and a lot of whoopee but when are you gonna get real?” But she’s not tedious — she’s honest and steady and investable at every turn.
Alex Pettyfer, Channing Tatum in Magic Mike.
The very first scene shows a strutting, bare-chested, leather-pants McConaughey delivering a show intro to a roomful of cheering, half-bombed women, and you’re thinking right away, “Okay, this feels standard — a typical way to start a movie about male strippers.” And then boom — Soderbergh cuts to black and then to a groggy Tatum waking up in bed after a threesome with an occasional hook-up (Olivia Munn) and a sleeping nude girl whose name neither of them can recall. And right away you’re thinking, “Wow, this is good…the dialogue (by first-time scripter Reid Carolin, who’s also Tatum’s producing partner) is canny and astute and cuts to the quick, and the acting feels natural and unforced.”
And you just relax. You know you’re in good hands. God, what a relief!
All it takes is one standout like Magic Mike to wash away the crud and part the clouds and make everything feel right again. Is it a great movie? No, but there’s very little in it — almost nothing — that doesn’t feel right. Okay, the last third feels a bit predictable and the final scene doesn’t quite deliver one of those final closure notes that we all talk about months or years later, but it’s good enough. More than good. Anyone who says this film doesn’t cut it needs to hit refresh and watch it again, and anyone who says it flat-out blows is a moron, and if he/she wants to make anything out of that I’ll see them outside after the film.
Yes, I intend to see Magic Mike at least another couple of times. It works the way all good movies do. It turns you on with smarts and honesty and sophistication, and sends you out on a high.
Tatum, Cody Horn, Olivia Munn.