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

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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 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.

    Posted by: Critifur | Jul 1, 2012 1:53:20 AM


  2. The best male stripper movie is "Trick"

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Jul 1, 2012 8:41:42 AM


  3. 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'.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Jul 1, 2012 10:34:28 AM


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

    Posted by: ratbastard | Jul 1, 2012 10:43:52 AM


  5. 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!

    Posted by: Ted | Jul 1, 2012 1:04:20 PM


  6. 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.

    Posted by: Ryan | Jul 1, 2012 1:59:33 PM


  7. 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!

    Posted by: Shalom | Jul 1, 2012 3:32:00 PM


  8. 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.

    Posted by: fernlaplante | Jul 1, 2012 3:34:14 PM


  9. 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.

    Posted by: JeffB | Jul 1, 2012 5:10:20 PM


  10. 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.

    Posted by: ThomT | Jul 1, 2012 7:20:02 PM


  11. 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.)

    Posted by: Dback | Jul 1, 2012 7:38:10 PM


  12. 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.

    Posted by: andrew | Jul 2, 2012 4:30:40 AM


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

    Posted by: andrew | Jul 2, 2012 8:03:14 AM


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

    Posted by: Butch | Jul 2, 2012 9:02:13 AM


  15. "It's 25 years too late - the Full Monty did this already."

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

    Posted by: Glenn | Jul 2, 2012 9:55:12 AM


  16. 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?

    Posted by: angela | Jul 2, 2012 4:55:54 PM


  17. "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.

    Posted by: AnonymousBosch | Jul 3, 2012 3:54:39 PM


  18. 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.

    Posted by: megan | Nov 18, 2012 5:18:04 PM


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