It is hard to take films with strippers seriously. Like (ahem) cult classics Showgirls and Striptease, trying to see the drama past the thongs and general nakedness is a challenge. But trust an established director like Steven Soderburgh to put substance into stripping.
His latest film, Magic Mike, focusses on the titular character (played by Channing Tatum), who is working towards launching his own furniture business. When he meets young slacker Adam (I am Number Four‘s Alex Pettyfer), Mike takes him under his wing at a local strip club, where he also works. As time goes on, Mike grows restless with his life as Adam delves deeper into the dark world of sex, drugs and single dollar bills.
Partially based on Tatum’s early experiences as a Florida stripper, the story is not the most groundbreaking. The moral difficulties between the master (Mike) and the pupil (Adam) is almost cliché and the plot unnecessarily drags on to its predictable ending. Soderburgh, along with screenwriter Reid Carolin, concentrates on Mike’s relationships and his desire to become a credible businessman; viewers can see how his need to take care of Adam drives him to become someone better but his commitment-free relationships with Joanna (Olivia Munn) and Adam’s protective sister Brooke (Cody Horn) seem to point to escapism. Quite fitting for a film set in the sunkissed shores of Tampa.
Tatum’s conscientious Mike can bust a move and even though this looks like his baby (the film was also partially self-financed by him), he puts in his heart and soul into shedding the heartthrob persona moulded by teen films such as She’s the Man and Step Up by being smart and focussed, so you cannot fault the dedication in his performance.
Pettyfer puts in a cocky performance as wayward Adam and just like his character, you feel like he wants to come out of Tatum’s shadow and in doing so, most of his scenes highlight his inexperience in handling his own screentime with his more established co-stars and his on-screen antics come across as immature.
Matthew McConaughey oozes a certain charisma as club boss Dallas; his Texan drawl, megawatt smile and abs doing what they best. Ambitious, enticing yet multi-faceted, he is temptation personified. Similar to his stellar performance in Killer Joe, McConaughey is leaving his career of dodgy adventure films and rom-coms and taking a turn for the better.
Even though it it entertaining and incredibly easy on the eye, it seems that Magic Mike intended to show the darker side to strippers but it doesn’t seem to ram the message home as effectively as it could have done.