Magic Mike outstrips the competition.....
Channing Tatum’s Magic Mike outstrips the competition with good gyrations, writes Sarah Stewart
IN a big-screen world of brooding superheroes, it’s a case of Magic Mike to the rescue! He’s got the civilian alter ego and the acrobatic skills to rival Spidey or Batman – but this guy does his best work when he’s taking off a silly outfit (preferably slowly, and set to the grinding beat of Ginuwine’s Pony).
Like the ‘‘c**k-rockin’ Kings of Tampa,’’ the all-male strip revue in which Mike (Channing Tatum) is the star attraction, Steven Soderbergh’s breezy dramedy Magic Mike serves up something for every taste.
It’s got funny and loose guy-bonding moments, a bit of romance and some first-rate dancing, much of it by Tatum himself (whose stripper past reportedly inspired the screenplay).
It’s also terrific-looking, as you’d expect from Soderbergh, who gives the Florida exterior shots in Magic Mike a bleached-out Polaroid vibe and finds the perfect middle ground between glam and sleazy for his depiction of small-city American nightclubs.
Oh, were you interested in something else? Greased-up abs and tearaway pants, perhaps? There’s an eye-popping amount of burlesque beefcake on display here, all done with raunchy good humour. It’s like The Full Monty, except with guys you actually want to see take it all off, or Boogie Nights minus the angst and the body count.
Well, maybe a little angst. The affable Mike holds down various jobs but, at 30, is dreaming of starting his own business, crafting found-object furniture. In the meantime, he works days in construction, where he meets Adam (Alex Pettyfer), a 19-year-old screw-up whose ex-jock bod makes him ripe for recruitment to Mike’s more lucrative gig, exotic dancing at Club Xquisite.
‘‘This is The Kid,’’ Mike dubs Adam when introducing him to the stripper crew.
Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello) sits at the sewing machine putting the finishing touches on a gold thong; a behemoth named Tarzan (Kevin Nash) asks if his legs look ashy.
But the real draw – almost outshining Tatum’s high-voltage appeal – is Matthew McConaughey, in what might be his best role yet as preening club owner Dallas. Borrowing a catchphrase from his iconic Dazed and Confused character – ‘‘all right, all right, all riiiiight!’’ – and more chiselled and leathery than ever, he schools the Kid and schemes about upgrading to bigtime Miami.
The Kid’s new lifestyle doesn’t sit well with his older sister and roommate, Brooke (a naturalistic Cody Horn). But even she can’t totally resist goofy Mike who assures her he’ll look after her little brother and makes her jaw drop when she catches his routine at the club.
Because watching this guy dance is undeniably thrilling, even to a cynic like Brooke, and Soderbergh’s camera adores him. Bathing his star in violet lights and sexy lens flares, the director showcases the moves that would have served Tatum well as a stripper, and earned him fame in 2006’s streetdancing movie Step Up.
Tatum’s co-stars deserve a lot of credit, too, for being incredibly game – and limber – for the extensively choreographed Flashdance- reminiscent dance numbers, cheesy get-ups and wolf-whistling female extras.
Manganiello, whose oft-naked True Blood character has already netted him a devoted following, has some of the best stage moments, like a fireman routine gone awry and a silhouetted pose that confirms the provenance of his character’s nickname.
Matt Bomer ( White Collar) is also in fine form as a dancer, Ken, while the slightly wooden Pettyfer is at his best onstage, learning to work the crowd.
There’s a dark-side-of-hedonism turn, as The Kid’s partying gets out of control, but thankfully, Soderbergh doesn’t wallow in it. There’s no shortage of tragic movies about the adult-entertainment world out there already.
Instead, his tone stays mainly with the sunny and, yes, Magic Mike, who you just know will always land on his feet – even when back-flipping off a stage into a mob of squealing sorority girls.
Alex Pettyfer and Channing Tatum star in Magic Mike.