Movies: “Magic Mike”… More Than We Dreamed He Could Be

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.

Comments

  1. JC says

    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?

  2. Bosie says

    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!!!

  3. St. Theresa of Avila says

    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.

  4. Dan says

    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 :)

  5. says

    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.

  6. Icebloo says

    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.

  7. ggreen says

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

  8. says

    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.

  9. Contrarian says

    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.

  10. ? says

    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.

  11. utahime says

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

  12. BrokebackBob says

    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.

  13. St. Theresa of Avila says

    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.

  14. jaragon says

    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

  15. stevie b says

    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.

  16. james says

    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.

  17. Joseph says

    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.

  18. Will says

    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!

  19. say what says

    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

  20. mikeflower says

    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

  21. Blake says

    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”.

  22. Critifur says

    I worked as a go-go dancer on and off for almost 13 years. I know there are amazing stories to tell, certainly more interesting than this. I wish I was a writer.

  23. ratbastard says

    I agree with Contrarian; it’s about the establishment praising anything Soderbergh does. They find the irony of a ‘serious’ filmmaker and artists doing a movie about male strippers ‘amusing’.

  24. ratbastard says

    It’s just occurred to me this movie review could be nothing more than a ‘brilliant’ piece of satire by Towleroad.

  25. Ted says

    Matt Bomer is the best actor in show business who is not a household name, YET. Brilliant career move this is especially with 2 new movies with serious parts in the pipeline! So great they had to rework the marketing for MM to include him front and center. He’s a good reason why this had such a fantastic opening weekend. Bravo, fun movie!

  26. says

    Very strange how stripped of gay men the movie is… I’m sorry, but in the world of male stripping, that’s a bit hard to believe.

    They didn’t have to make the movie about gay people, but they could have at least put a few gay dudes in the female “audiences” at the strip club. Some stuff like that, enough to say, “we know this exists and we know these people are going to male strip clubs, even if our particular story isn’t about them.”

    I don’t understand the Hollywood decision making that went into this choice to ‘strip’ out Teh Gay at all, not with its target audience, at least.

  27. Shalom says

    Towleroad needs a new movie reviewer. The entire theatre guffawed throughout the entire film. This movie dreams of being the new “Showgirls,” but it needs to wake up!

  28. fernlaplante says

    Is this a serious review or tongue in cheek? To call this one of the best movies of the year is a joke. It was passable but nothing more than mildly entertianing fluff geared towards sheltered suburban moms.

  29. JeffB says

    Saw this movie last night–what a bore!!! Some interesting snippets, but overall disappointing and uninteresting. And Matthew McConaughey, while he has a nice body, is homely as sin!!!! He is NOT easy to look at in the eye!!! Looked and sounded like a southern baptist preacher! Don’t waste your money–wait for the DVD…and skip through the superfluous scenes.

  30. ThomT says

    Anytime a guy removes his shirt in a Hollywood movie the PR department for the movie plays games with the advertising to attract gay dollars. By now we should all realize that the big studios aren’t interested in honestly representing diversity. Had there been a token gay character in “Magic Mike” my money says it would have been a drag MC or comic.

  31. Dback says

    My, the haters are out today. Saw this Friday night with a PACKED theater in Beaverton, OR (90% women)–it was clear that they came for the beefcake, but instead got a thoughtful, 70’s-style drama with comic notes (definite echoes of “Shampoo” and “Boogie Nights”) and great performances. Yeah, gay content is largely absent, but this club is geared towards women in Tampa; you want gayness, go to The Birdcage in Miami. :) Suffice to say all of the actors show a LOT of their assets, and Matthew McConaughey–of all people–gives the performance of his career, oozing charisma and sleaze. It could have been even longer (it was just under 2 hours, and “Boogie Nights” was well over 2.5) to flesh out more details, but I walked out feeling as if I knew just enough about these people, their choices, and their lives, and wondering what would happen when they started pushing 50 and the music stopped playing. (Now, was this “Moonrise Kingdom,” probably the best film of the year thus far? No, but it shouldn’t be judged as harshly as some are treating it.)

  32. andrew says

    From everything that I have seen and read Channing Tatum is a really great guy. I saw him on the Ellen Show and he was awesome. I wish him years of success.

  33. andrew says

    I think that Channing Tatum was born on Mount Olympus. He is a god walking among us mere mortals. Yep, its true!

  34. Butch says

    I don’t get it; I found the dancing as un-erotic as anything I’ve ever seen.

  35. says

    “It’s 25 years too late – the Full Monty did this already.”

    That seriously made me laugh. Like, genuine full on guffaws.

  36. angela says

    JOHN….I want to know the remix/version of like a version as well. It’s not on the soundtrack and I have listened to every cover/remix I can find and none of them are the right one!!! Anyone know?

  37. AnonymousBosch says

    “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 ?”

    Have you ever *read* this site, Icebloo? When it’s not ‘Christians Hate You’ it’s “Look, a celebrity / sports star with his shirt off. Squeal squeal”. I wish fellow gay men could move past acting like teenage girls that way, but it is what it is.

  38. megan says

    Aww c’mon, I came here on a neverending quest for the “Like a Virgin” cover in the movie, but I read your comments. Everybody knows that most male strippers are gay, and I predict many movies about that in the future…is it so wrong for them to throw us girls a bone and let us have our way just this once? I don’t see another stripper movie filled with all straight guys happening; it’s just not realistic.