‘Magic Mike’ Review

Published 2 years ago by , Updated July 9th, 2012 at 10:15 am,

 Magic Mike Review

Being that it’s a creation of Steven Soderbergh (Contagion, Haywire), it should be no surprise that (like its titular character) Magic Mike is more than the superficial flesh-fest it may initially seem to be. Aside from being a witty reversal of the usual cinematic gender roles (men, instead of  girls, being showcased as sexual objects), the film is also a refreshingly original (and often hilarious) workplace ensemble comedy; a subtle social commentary on blue-collar struggle and the pitfalls of the American Dream; a nuanced character study anchored by breakout leading man Channing Tatum (The Vow); and even at its weakest, a cute (if not cliched) slow-burn love story.

Mike is a hard-working (and hard-playing)  Tampa, Florida boy with ambitions that extend beyond the borders of his blue-collar reality. He wants to start a business making custom furniture (his quirky personal obsession), but credit woes keep him stranded in the limbo of odd-job work, with nights spent heating up the ladies of Tampa as a legendary male dancer/stripper. Mike’s focus on his hustle gets sidetracked when he meets Adam (Alex Pettyfer), a fresh-faced boy practically begging for a wing to rest under. Mike wastes no time turning Adam out (that’s pimp slang, Google it) and introduces him, sink-or-swim style,  to the world of male stripping – a world hosted by charismatic den father/business manager, Dallas (Matthew McConaughey).

 Magic Mike Review

Alex Pettyfer and Matthew McConaughey in 'Magic Mike'

The plot thickens when Adam’s sister, Brooke (relative newcomer Cody Horn), learns about her brother’s new profession. Cody isn’t the “vampire” type (i.e., those who live the wild nightlife) and she challenges Mike’s smooth-as-butter swagger, while also holding him to the promise that he’ll do right by her brother. Of course, like any young man with looks, money, and the adoration of women, Adam quickly begins to tumble down the slippery slope of drugs and bad decisions – landing both him and Mike in some troubled waters. Questioning his future and his relationships with both Dallas and Brooke, Mike soon finds himself facing some hard realities, and harder choices.

As stated, Magic Mike offers much more than its initial kinky (and overly familiar) premise. Sorry fellas, there is still a lot of sculpted male anatomy being put on display – and trust me when I tell you, you’ll be getting an eyeful of everything. However, Soderbergh directs with his usual interminably hip sense of style, and does a great job of developing the entire stripping aspect of the film in a way that mirrors the actual experience: an enticing fantasy that, when examined in more depth, slowly reveals a somewhat strange, sad, and ultimately unfavorable reality.

magic mike movie Magic Mike Review

The enticing dance sequences are perfectly executed and deliciously juxtaposed to the off-beat backstage scenes where the pretty boys instantly  get juvenile and silly, soliciting many laughs as we watch these grown men engage in odd (quasi-feminine) behavior as manscaping, costuming, or (ahem) a bit of… anatomical enhancement. Workplace comedies are great – provided you have the right ensemble of personalities; Tatum, McConaughey, and the other members of the stripping team – True Blood star Joe Manganiello, former WWE star, Diesel (Kevin Nash), CSI: Miami star Adam Rodriguez and White Collar star Matt Bomer – have the chemistry and the snappy repertoire to keep things light and fun up in the club. Manganiello – who plays the aptly named “Big Dick Richie” – continues to be a stand out, even when handed thin supporting material; McConaughey pretty much owns every scene he’s in, and arguably plays his best character since he dropped those classic lines as an overaged high school clinger in Dazed and Confused.

Tatum continues to dare his detractors to hate him, as he once again turns in a great leading performance as Mike. The actor (who is treading on some semi-autobiographical material here) layers his performance perfectly, so that he is at once the fantasy guy that women desire and men aspire to be; the ‘hooker with a heart of gold and big dreams’ that we’ve seen in so many movies before (Pretty Woman); but secretly (and revealed with careful measure) a troubled, lonely soul frustrated by the trappings of his blue-collar life and the inevitable emptiness that comes from being overshadowed by his”Magic Mike” persona. Tatum nails every scene that requires him to do real emoting or show serious vulnerability; otherwise, he’s a smooth-talking, slick-dancing, piece of leading man eye candy that certain viewers will eat right up.

 Magic Mike Review

Channing Tatum and Cody Horn in 'Magic Mike'

Cody Horn will likely enjoy breakout success thanks to this role, as she manages to hold the screen both on her own and when facing off against Tatum. Mike and Brooke’s chemistry is charming and interesting to watch, even if seeming, at times, like an extraneous addition to the plot. Cody plays Brooke as a sardonic observer of the mad world around her – the one person in this crowd of misfits who recognizes the absurdity of what’s going on, and can see well beyond the pretty fantasy to the soul-eroding eventuality of the business. Horn’s immaculately structured face conveys volumes of expression in just a furrowed glance, or twisted lip, and Soderbergh lets the camera linger on her at every opportunity, creating an entire subtext about those women for whom this particular reversal (men exploited as sexual objects) holds little allure.

Supporting actors like Alex Pettyfer and Olivia Munn are handed the hard jobs of conveying some of the secondary sub-plots of the film in a way that is effective, but not overly distracting to the main narrative threads. Pettyfer (who has headlined films like I Am Number Four and In Time) has arguably had his talent overlooked; his character (re-christened as “The Kid”) is not that interesting when compared to Mike, but Pettyfer handles Adam’s descent into corruption and stagnation in such a nuanced (but resonant) way that it deserves acknowledgement. Munn plays Joanna, a hedonistic intellectual whose casual relationship with Mike takes some interesting turns when Mr. Magic tries to grasp something real in his life. While Munn isn’t the greatest actress, her character serves her well and this is probably her most memorable onscreen performance to date.

 Magic Mike Review

Soderbergh’s directorial style and editing is (as usual) a highlight of the proceedings, and transforms the admittedly cliched story beats of Magic Mike into something fresh and unique. The film is structured by chapters that each cover one month of summer (June, July, August) – and even the jump-cuts from chapter to chapter are executed in pitch-perfect fashion. The photography is structured equally well, and often holds on certain shots or perspectives that are contrary to the voyeuristic impulses of the audience (for example, an extended shot of Brooke’s face as she watches one of Mike’s stage routines, rather than quick cuts back to the performance itself). There are also plenty of visual gags laced into the photography and mis-en-scene composition (see: that “anatomical enhancement” scene), while the gorgeous cinematography alternates between the vividly dark and  the mutedly light.

All in all, Magic Mike takes a familiar story and transforms it into something modern, unique and beautiful to look at (and I’m not just talking beefcakes, here). The great performances outweigh the cliched (and at times, meandering) story beats of first-time feature-film screenwriter Reid Carolin’s script, and there is enough humor, romantic intrigue – and yes, plenty of tight bodies  - to send any and everyone home with fun (of some kind) having been had.

For an in-depth discussion of the film by the Screen Rant team check out our Magic Mike episode of the SR Underground podcast.

Magic Mike is now playing in theaters. It is Rated R for pervasive sexual content, brief graphic nudity, language and some drug use.

Our Rating:

4 out of 5
(Excellent)

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TAGS: Magic Mike

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  1. Who did you see the movie with Kofi lol

    • I was about to ask the same question. I hope you didnt go in alone lol

  2. Yuck yuck yuck. Bring on the jokes. I’m ready.

    For the record: I went with my wife, which is not exactly a better choice, fellas.

    • haha, Its cool. Its just a little teasing man. Nothing serious. Great review btw.

    • So did you have to carry a napkin to wipe the drool from her mouth? :-D

      Oh come on! You know you guys were thinking the same thing! :0

    • I dont care about the movie .. but how did matt bomer do in the movie? he is great in white collar and hopes he continues acting (if he was good)

    • I saw this on a week day. Only man in the theaters and I think I was the only person who wasn’t disappointed by the lack of…”Striptease-esqe” action.

  3. OMG CANT WAIT TO SEE THIS!!!!!!!!

    lmao, as if. I cant wait to see The Spider this tuesday ^.^

    Ill be ticket checking tonight at my theater, bring on the ladies hahahaha.

    • Haha that’s the only thing good about being a man goin to see this is all the women who will be attending.

      • And all the gay guys!

        • “all the gay guys’ ? speak for yourself. I and MANY of the “gay” guys I know have no interest in seeing this movie. These guys are gross. MM is old and gross.

          • sorry to say but there were lots of gays guys at the theater when I went and anyone who thinks MM is gross is off there rocker he’s a hot piece of ass for his age!!

            • Joe Managiello (sp?) is hot!! I was on of maybe 5 guys in the theater… not sure if they were gay or not… but I certainly am and I enjoyed it alot!!!!!

  4. My initial reaction to this review is the same as
    my reaction to yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling.

    While I could never see the logic of how great performance
    and Channing Tatum can appear in the same sentence I will
    nonetheless take the decision rendered under advisement in
    an attempt to respect the methodology employed by Chief
    Justice Kofi Outlaw in this case to justify a four star review.

    • As a Supreme Screen Rant Justice, I concur with your ruling. :-)

      • In light of your sterling record of jurisprudence at Screen Rant it’s
        an honor to have you join in the dissenting opinion of this case. D

        • :D not D

        • Yes, dissenting opinion, not ruling. I guess my medication affected my final draft. :o

          • Yes, that is an explanation for that aberration :D
            And paying to see this is not a penalty but a tax.

  5. Is it April again ?

  6. Sorry you got an eyeful of “everything” Kofi :D

  7. since i work at a movie theatre i had to do theatre checks every hour… i saw enough of that movie. and cody horn is the exact same as kristen stewart to me. She has one facial expression she goes back to every 5 minutes and her voice sounds very similar to kristen. I hope she isnt a breakout star i dont wanna see that in any more movies.

  8. Saw it last night. It was decent. Could’ve delved deeper into the sleazy world of strippers or deeper into the one romantic relationship, just felt a bit shallow for what I was expecting.

    Men the ladies loved the film, I think they thought the film was going to be a lot more male stripping cause they would go crazy during some of the male exotic dancing sequences. Singles guys should hang out in front of the theater as the film lets out, you may get lucky :)

    Oh and this Cody Horn was OK but not totally impressive. Looker her up and surprise, she’s the daughter of WB’s president. Talk about nepotism

    • I agree. I thought her acting was horrible. There was no acting. It was more like stand there and stare while the camera is on me.

  9. I absolutely loved all the stripping scenes obviously! lol But the actual story/plot of the movie wasn’t very good. I was pretty upset with how they left The Kid’s character in the end. Also wish there would have been more to the romance part of it between Channing and Cody. I guess I would give it a 7 but thats just for all the wonderful skin! lol

  10. Every gay man in America will see this!

  11. I’m not sure which Brooke you were watching, but to me, that role could have been better cast. She looked brain dead through most of the movie. She had NO expression most of the time, and I was really confused as to why she was cast. There were times that she was good, but most of the time all I saw was a blank stare. I also wish the ending was better. But I’m looking forward to the extras on the DVD.

  12. This might have been the funniest review to date. This movie was also..unfortunately really really good..

  13. This is what the movies are for – two hours of escapism in whatever way the audience most wants it. The objectification, celebration of “casual” sexual encounters, and other male “fantasies” that have been normalized and then flooded throughout my psyche by the media since I was born, has been reversed in ‘Magic Mike.’ Every day of our lives, we are bombarded by images of skinny/tan/rich/blonde/whatever-“perfect”-is women, and this is two hours of the opposite. So shouldn’t I be thrilled to enjoy it, while men have to deal with the objectification, for a change? Check out my take here: http://womenwellloved.wordpress.com/2012/07/02/not-so-magic-mike-are-women-becoming-the-men-we-despise/

  14. Great review. I saw the movie last night. I was wondering if you noticed the color? Not sure if it was the theater I was at, but it had a sepia-like look to it. The blue sky wasn’t blue for example. Reminded me of that “instagram” look. Was it just a bad theater or was it like that for you too? (more yellow-grey).

  15. The film should have actually been called “Women are Hypocrites: The Movie”.

    The reason I say this is because I hear women all of the time whining about men objectifying women and being pigs who have a set standard of what they think is attractive about a woman. They act like any man who would go to a strip club is a pig who needs to be castrated. But then those same women will go and see a movie like Magic Mike and gush over how great it was seeing the guys dancing around on stage. Also, I know women who have been to strip clubs where it’s male dancers on stage. Those same women who like having dicks wiggled in their face have threatened divorce on their husbands for even thinking of going to their friends Bachelor Parties. As I said, women are hypocrites.

  16. I watched the movie today and honestly, I wasn’t that impress. The guys stripping was good of course, other then that it lack pace, the movie seem to start very slow and end very story. I also dislike the ending I think it needed a strong ending. For example Mike walking out of the club and just driving somewhere and it ends. It leaves us guessing. The acting was also to nauturlistic. I know it was meant to feel like it flows but it didn’t it was too awkward with all the swearing. The girls acting was also really bad! I also didn’t like the different months appearing ( cheesy) that just my thoughts not hating.
    Over all I would give it 3 out of 5 :D

  17. Well I am here just to say that I don’t agree with the and I thought the advertisement was misleading!!! I believe that actors have to understand that our young people look up to them as role models and we have enough dysfunction in our society with out exposing our youth to belive this is normal. I found the movie to be disgusting and very explecit!!! I went to see this with adults as we exited the movie we all left very disapointed and feeling violated.

    • How exactly was the advertisement misleading?! The previews show the dance scenes and shows the other parts of the movie that are not “provacative”. And as far as you feeling violated, it seems to me like you probably shouldn’t have gone to see this movie. Did you not check the ratings? RATED R “Language, Brief Graphic Nudity, Pervasive Sexual Content and Some Drug Use .Information for parents: Common Sense Media says not for kids”…. With that kind of rating, what the heck did you expect!

  18. Loved the movie esp the snack. Them boys can seriously move! Mmmm mmmm mmmm like butter on ur breakfast toast!!!

  19. i was very dissapointed in this film and expected alot more from it, it was lacking alot. i loved watching the dancing and thought that channing tatum was an awsome actor but Cody Horn was not the right actress for this role. it was a bit boring and the ending was rubbish. i would like watch this film again. i feel the movie could have had more dancing init and maybe a bit more racey.

  20. Worst movie ever.

  21. I’m sorry, but I have to disagree on Cody Horn. She was horrible and pretty much killed the mood of every scene she was in.

  22. Haha I thought this review was a joke.. I was waiting for a punch line or something. This was the worst movie ever and Cody was awful. So awkward and painful to watch.

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