Alex Pettyfer | Channing Tatum | Film | Magic Mike | Matt Bomer | Matthew McConaughey | Nathaniel Rogers

Movies: "Magic Mike"... More Than We Dreamed He Could Be

Magicmike-stage
"You are the husband they never had. You are that dreamboat guy that never came along."

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS

YOUR FEATURE PRESENTATION

An exhilarating all night double date is winding down on a bridge in Tampa, just before the sun rises. MAGIC MIKE (Channing Tatum) stands up on the railing, looks over his shoulder and dives gracefully backwards into the water to the mild delight of the anonymous girls. His new protégé "The Kid" (Alex Pettyfer), already eager to follow in his new buddy's footsteps (and body rolls), jumps in awkwardly after him.

"Hey Mike, I think we should be best friends!" 

The Kid blurts the invitation out with both of them bobbing in the water. He's like a little boy who's just discovered a whole new playground. It's a perfectly crush-worthy unguarded moment -- the kind that makes you give yourself over completely to a movie. My heart is yours, movie. Treat me right. 

This gem of a scene is also, as it turns out, the exclamation point to a perfectly formed Act One, "June". The movie takes place over the course of one life-changing summer for Mike and The Kid: June, July, and August. You go to Magic Mike to see seven spectacularly formed male bodies but the movie turns out to be all sculpted, too: June is introductions, flirtations and promise, by July you're deep in love/lust and too hot for clothing, and in August... Well, you know how sticky August gets.

Magicmike-clubbing

MORE, AFTER THE JUMP...

A word about the movie's shape, or physique if you will: If Magic Mike The Movie were a man, it'd be one of those average seeming guys who is suddenly a sex god once his clothes are off, annoyingly fit through the mystery of genetics without ever having to sweat or target a muscle group. All of which is to say that the movie's carefully sculpted form is initially hidden from view by its ultra casual posture. The movie feels improvised in nearly every scene though the quotable lines from a screenplay by Reid Carolin (who also plays Brooke's sort of boyfriend "Paul" in the film) suggest that it totally wasn't. Some of the movie's best laughs spring from its offhand observational manner like its disarming matter-of-fact introduction of "Big Dick" Ritchie. (Joseph Mangianello is looser and funnier as Ritchie than he's ever been as “Alcides” on True Blood, though not, unfortunately, more naked.) Some of Magic Mike’s best texture happens in the background where Ken (Matt Bomer) and Tito (Adam Rodriguez) are seemingly always engaged in inane small talk in very tight underpants. 

Magicmike-flirtingOscar winning director Steven Soderbergh favors long takes here without cuts, which really puts you in the club, in the moment and with the actors. This ‘you are there’ atmosphere has obvious benefits in the movies frequent strip club scenes but it pays off in (slightly) more clothed scenes, too. When Mike pursues The Kid's uptight sister Brooke (Cody Horn) you're witnessing their entire wandering giggling flirtation which ends with a vision of such sun-dappled dreaminess that the movie theater is temporarily transformed into a sand bar party.

Soderbergh's trust in his star performer’s on camera ease and charm is repaid with the actor's best and most lived-in performance yet. The movie was loosely inspired by Channing's own brief stint as a male stripper five years before Hollywood came calling and to the star's great credit and our entertainment, he isn’t interesting in hiding his past, his feelings or his body. When Chan dives backwards into the water in that aforementioned Act One scene,  there's no opportunity to slip in a body double or stunt man as there are no edits whatsoever.

The same goes for the super authentic strip scenes. Though they have more editing, there are no body doubles, just bodies. Bodies by God… and personal chefs and trainers and seven hour daily workouts.

Magicmike-4thofjuly

The amusing choreography, which gyrates around between big time and amateur hour, is presumably the work of Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), the club's owner and emcee. McConaughey gets the showiest role and finally finds that signature role that's alluded him all these years. Dallas may be a small time Tampa club owner but he carries himself like a stadium ready rock star with the conviction and charisma of a religious figure, the leader of his own Cult of Seven Thongs. While he's great and eerily serious about the autoeroticism once he finally takes center stage, the actor is even better in scenes where he's paired with the possible future versions of himself in Mike (the "star" he's groomed for years) and The Kid, who'll do if Mike is unavailable. His funny and very hands on pelvis on training of The Kid is the single truest snapshot of how game this entire cast is for self-exploitation, uninhibited comedy, and real acting, too.  It'd be Oscar Nomination #1 for McConaughey if anyone thinks to take a movie about male strippers seriously and doesn't mind the thought of an Oscar clip that contains glistening close up of the star’s glutes, somersaulting toward the camera. (In other words: That Oscar nomination will be very hard to come by.)

There are moments during “August” that you could argue fall on the wrong side of cliché and judgmental attitudes about Mike's "lifestyle" but even the movie’s most conservative character (Brooke, the love interest) has a distinct personality and Magic Mike never pretends that her inhibitions equal a lack of libido. Soderbergh makes the very smart decision to let us watch her watching Mike’s act and even if she’s uncomfortable with his exhibitionism, she’s obviously just as hypnotized as the next (far-more-inebriated) girl. She can’t pull her eyes away from him. 

Magic Mike has rude laughs, heartfelt drama, smart filmmaking and character development (!!!). Against all odds its Soderbergh's best film since his Oscary heyday (Erin Brockovich & Traffic). All that plus more pecs, abs and ass than you’ve seen onscreen since… maybe ever? (No, internet porn does not count.)  May Magic Mike be such a gargantuan hit that Hollywood is forced to make male strippers the new superheroes. 

I think we should be its best friend and see it thrice.

Magicmike-sandbar

P.S. In what can only be called a summer miracle, Magic Mike and the Oscar buzzing original Beasts of the Southern Wild, both brand new this weekend, happen to be the two best movies of the year thus far. Do not miss either of them... it's a perfect weekend to hit the movie theater.

Nathaniel Rogers would live in the movie theater but for the poor internet reception. He blogs daily at the Film Experience. Follow him on Twitter @nathanielr.

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Comments

  1. I have no real desire to see this movie, but I would like to know: did Holywood suck all of the gay out of the male stripclub theme?

    Posted by: JC | Jun 30, 2012 1:04:28 PM


  2. I think he liked it.

    Posted by: Bill | Jun 30, 2012 1:07:57 PM


  3. This can't possibly be good. How can you actually suggest this film with an Oscar worthy film...shameful. I'm spending my wknd in PS by the pool with hot guys bro

    I can see Hot Go Go Dancers @ gay bars anytime for free!!!


    Posted by: Bosie | Jun 30, 2012 1:19:30 PM


  4. Don't be coy ... any cock?

    Posted by: Dan | Jun 30, 2012 1:30:36 PM


  5. I think Steven Soderbergh directed this on an ego trip, just to prove he's so damn good that he can make a story about male strippers that garners critical approval and positive reviews.

    Posted by: St. Theresa of Avila | Jun 30, 2012 1:46:16 PM


  6. You're easily impressed then. The movie's OK, but the story bites.

    SPOILERS AHEAD

    It seems good at first, but if you make the mistake of thinking about it after the fact, you realize how many gaping holes there are. So 'the kid' is presumably just going to go on to be a drugged out manwhore in Miami? He cleans up his act? Whatever - maybe we'll deal with that in a sequel. And the sister goes from wanting to kill Mike (understandably, after she finds her brother possibly dead from an OD) to shacking up with him just because he did the right thing and fronted the money for the drug deal gone bad? Never mind her brother's still out of control and presumably OD'ing out there because of the life Mike introduced him to.

    And the performances? OK. I think the reason Channing Tatum actually seems like a good actor this time around is because he's not actually acting. He used to be a stripper and have exactly this life. He just needed to recreate his own life from 10-15 years ago. And the other guys? Joe, Alex, Matt and all the others people were looking forward to seeing? I've seen extras with more compelling stories.

    The direction? Decent, but a little too overly styled. Some of the jump cuts were a tad too abrupt and some of the lens effects were a little out of control. And sometimes the pacing felt a little off. Perhaps this was intentional, I dunno.

    Finally, the skin. Channing clearly knows his way around a dance floor. And he is amazing to look at... but compared to the gold standard of stripper movies (Showgirls), this show doesn't actually show much.

    Wait for the DVD, folks. Hopefully the director's cut will resolve some of the skin issues :)

    Posted by: Dan | Jun 30, 2012 1:48:17 PM


  7. Saw it last night -- It's a fun movie! Ugh the plot is just awful. And not in an awful fun way like Showgirls. But we had a great time -- especially when the power went out and the whole theater started screaming for the usher to take his clothes off.


    MORE IMPORTANTLY: Does anybody know the remix/version of Like a Virgin that The Kid stripped to? I can't find it anywhere.

    Posted by: John | Jun 30, 2012 2:09:44 PM


  8. This looks like over-hyped crap to me. It's 25 years too late - the Full Monty did this already.

    Lazy film makers assume gays and women will flock to see this just because we can see some bare chests. YAWN. Are people REALLY that desperate ?

    If you want nudity there is a much better selection available online.

    Posted by: Icebloo | Jun 30, 2012 2:50:47 PM


  9. Anyone else's gaydar go off on Candy Horn. She looks and acts like Jo From Facts of Life.

    Posted by: ggreen | Jun 30, 2012 3:32:45 PM


  10. Hated it.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Jun 30, 2012 4:46:03 PM


  11. Wrong, wrong, wrong ... "Magic Mike" makes "Burlesque" look like Oscar material.

    Stripping ... boring ... stripping ... boring ... stripping ... boring.

    A truly awful movie. Wait for it to hit a RedBox and spend a buck for some laughs.

    Posted by: DiatribesAndOvations | Jun 30, 2012 4:50:00 PM


  12. The Towleroad in-house movie reviewer, and the establishment reviewers from the NYT and the self-declared "serious" press/blogs are determined to praise Soderbergh. In the world of film criticism, once one is declared a "talent" or auteur, your work is almost always described as either great or at least "interesting but flawed". You are not capable of bombing. If this is Oscar worthy it means only that this is not an action-adventure-fantasy-violence piece of crapola standard Hollywood summer film for 14 year old teens.

    Posted by: Contrarian | Jun 30, 2012 5:42:34 PM


  13. All I care to see in this movie is Channing Tatum from behind. Everything else is a throwaway. Matthew McConaughey was hot back in the early 2000s, but now his age is showing. His face looks very gaunt.

    Posted by: ? | Jun 30, 2012 5:46:15 PM


  14. Beasts of the Southern Wild isn't only one of the best films this year, I'd say so far of this century...

    Posted by: utahime | Jun 30, 2012 6:07:47 PM


  15. How on God's created Earth did
    smart, handsome, talented, and gay Matthew
    Bomer get associated with this piece
    of trash?? Steven S is at most and will
    never be more than a B- director.
    Hollywood actors trying to be actual
    male strippers (whose bodies have to be
    REALLY good) is such a joke.

    Posted by: BrokebackBob | Jun 30, 2012 7:22:35 PM


  16. In the world of film criticism, once one is declared a "talent" or auteur, your work is almost always described as either great or at least "interesting but flawed". You are not capable of bombing.

    That isn't true, Contrarian. "The Fountain" from Darren Aronofsky...and nobody in cinema is more of an "auteur"...was rightly lampooned by most serious critics as a big stinking pile of crap. He came back in a big way with Black Swan.

    Posted by: St. Theresa of Avila | Jun 30, 2012 8:55:55 PM


  17. Oh please guys the only reason to see this movie is to get chance to see the charming Mr Tatum and his semi naked pals...I did see "Abrahan Licoln: Vampire Hunter" which had a promising beginning with young Abe( nicely shirtless Benjamin Walker) getting vampire killer tips from cute Dominic Cooper. The rest of the movie is a series of preposterous action scenes

    Posted by: jaragon | Jun 30, 2012 8:58:39 PM


  18. eluded, not alluded. c'mon.

    Posted by: sam | Jun 30, 2012 10:13:52 PM


  19. Magic Mike was not gay-friendly in the slightest. There are no gay male relationships. It's just about a bunch of straight guys trying to pick up chicks. Yawn.

    Stick to YouTube or go see Ted - they're better.

    Posted by: stevie b | Jun 30, 2012 10:25:51 PM


  20. There were no gay men - not even bi men - in Magic Mike. It's as if the movie was put through a sieve to remove any depictions of gay or bisexual male sexuality.

    I felt the marketing was misleading, especially seeing it was all over Towleroad for weeks. I feel let down by Towleroad.

    If our sexuality can't even get shown in movies like Magic Mike, you know we're in trouble. Thumbs down to Magic Mike and - unfortunately - thumbs down to Towleroad for its almost misleading articles.

    Posted by: james | Jun 30, 2012 10:44:00 PM


  21. I'm confused about something. Were we expecting Magic Mike to feature a gay/bi subplot or something? I know I wasn't.

    The movie isn't as great as this review suggests, though he's right about Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey's excellent performances as well as Soderbergh's direction -- I loved the almost Altmanesque scene on the sandbar.

    Posted by: Joseph | Jun 30, 2012 11:26:57 PM


  22. Ugh. The only way someone should se this movie is with the sound off. A little man candy, but really?

    I agree with James and hate the fact that there wasn't any gay aspect to this film. All those hot bodies and no contact.

    Straights seems to be on a mission lately to close our bars and clubs and this seems like an effort to patronize us again. Ugh!

    Posted by: Will | Jun 30, 2012 11:32:10 PM


  23. joseph please find me 1 strip joint geared towards women that doesnt have 1 gay or bi stripper in it

    In fact I challenge you to find 1 strip joint geared towards women that is not majority gay strippers pretending to be straight for the ladies

    Anyway; crap movie

    Posted by: say what | Jun 30, 2012 11:56:15 PM


  24. Don't go hate'n on Towleroad for running paid adverts for this movie. The site has to pay the bills somehow as it is a FREE site

    Posted by: mikeflower | Jul 1, 2012 12:10:58 AM


  25. We should not blame Towleroad, AfterElton, etcetera for the Magic Mike drive over the last several months, they need to make money somehow.

    We just need a code in future so that we know that a movie that is being pushed on us actually has gay content.

    It is amazing what Hollywood is willing to "straight wash".

    Posted by: Blake | Jul 1, 2012 1:28:22 AM


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