Magic Mike is a feel-good film about male strippers … whoa, hold on there, straight guys, where are you going? Don't go away – hang in here and read on, and you'll find out why this is a film for everyone, not just gay men and women who want to get an eyeful of wang.
For a start, it's a brilliant film – fun, funny and smart; it's a film with something to say, and with superb performances all around. And for those who have an aversion to the male member, don't worry – there's barely a penis in sight. Well, maybe a couple. Sort of. And one is in sillhouette, so it doesn't really count, does it?
The Magic Mike of the title – beautifully played by Tatum, himself a former stripper – is not just a man who takes his clothes off for a living. He is, in his own words, an entrepreneur. During the day he works on building sites as a roofer, and he also has a sideline business making furniture. But stripping is his bread and butter – and he's very good at it, too. He dances at a Tampa, Florida, club named Xquisite, owned and run by Dallas (McConaughey). One night while out trying to drum up business, Mike recruits 19-year-old Adam (Pettyfer), whom he christens The Kid. The two form a tight bond as Mike teaches Adam the ropes, but as he gains more confidence on stage, The Kid gets drawn into the somewhat sleazy world that takes place offstage – sex, drugs and a whole lot more.
The biggest surprise in Magic Mike comes from the three leads – McConaughey, Tatum and Pettyfer. Who knew that they could all be this good on screen? OK, McConaughey has hit a couple of big winners in the past year or so with, first, The Lincoln Lawyer and then Killer Joe. But after a run of average rom-coms, such as Fool's Gold, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past and Failure to Launch, most of us were wondering if this good-looking dude from Texas actually had any acting chops. Don't worry, he has them in spades. Ditto Tatum. Another victim of the bad-film roundabout (The Vow, Dear John, The Dilemma) Tatum showed a surprising knack for comedy alongside Jonah Hill in 21 Jump Street. Magic Mike is more of a "dramady" – but the comedy never overshadows the drama, or vice versa. The dance routines are all terrific, the soundtrack is pumping and director Soderbergh has put in his best work since The Informant.
On the down side (there's always at least one, isn't there?), this is very much the blokes' film. The female roles are somewhat underwritten – they are there either to leer at the almost-naked men on stage, or be a mother figure / love interest, which is pretty much all that the beautiful Horn gets to do. She's Brooke, the older sister-cum-mother figure for Adam, but of course Mike has his eye on her. And Munn gets to show off her ample charms as a bisexual plaything of Mike's (yes straight guys, if you're still reading, there are occasionally some boobs on display for your enjoyment). But that's a small complaint. Magic Mike is probably the best film you'll see about male strippers this year, so why not go along and catch an eyeful? Just watch out for those wangs.
SHE SAYS: Maryann O'Connor ★★★ Having heard it said that Magic Mike focused more on bromance than romance, it was interesting to see the reality. At first it was bromance-heavy, Mike taking pity on the feckless kid, giving him an entry to this glamorous world of willy-enhancers and thongs. The Xquisite dance shows were very entertaining and definitely played to the strengths of the cast: the dancer in Tatum was given full rein and McConaughey became the ridiculous showman we always knew was just under the surface. The makers decided to dilute this shaved man paradise with the usual stripper just wants to be loved and get a respectable profession subplot, but failed to develop this enough for any sort of satisfactory ending. Tatum should have stuck to the dancing.