How many women that traveled to it in packs this past summer realized “Magic Mike” was helmed by an Academy-award winning director? How many even cared? Did director Steven Soderbergh bother to distress? I doubt it. His 3rd film in roughly 9 months(rest much, Steve?), following the star-studded worldwide plague movie “Contagion” from September 2011 and January 2012’s underrated actioner “Haywire”, “MM” is easily the biggest hit of the triptych thanks to those “desperate” housewives(I’ve talked to a few of them at the schoolyard when picking up my kids…believe me, they fit the profile). On a scant 7 million dollar budget, Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey and the boys managed to rake in 167 million worldwide. That’s a gigantic return on investment, and they didn’t even have to count on singles in g-strings to bolster the take. I even read posts from some gals on Facebook in June pleading for the studio to release “MM” in 3D IMAX. Hang in there, ladies…maybe your prayers will be answered for “Fifty Shades of Grey”.
And, of course, “Magic Mike” delivers exactly what it advertised—hot-bodied men of various age, size(I’m talking height and body mass, but let your imagination run wild if you so choose)and experience strutting their stuff across stage(on film, anyway)and baring their six-pack abs. Plot? Well, that’s straight out of “Flashdance” or “Showgirls” or any number of movies with similar themes. Except this time it’s with dudes. “Magic” Mike Lane(“it” boy 2012, Channing Tatum)works a variety of jobs to pull in cash in order to realize his dream of opening his custom furniture business(shades of Don Cheadle’s “Buck’s Super Stereo World” from 1997’s “Boogie Night’s”…especially during the bank loan scene). One of his more lucrative occupations? Male stripper at a club run by owner/worker Dallas(Mr. McConaughey, quite good performing the stereotypical role of the burnt-out owner, who’s striving to make his big splash by creating a strip-club empire). Mike is in his late 20’s, has been around and knows the ropes. One of his “careers” is construction(“…just a steel town boy on a Saturday night“), and it’s on this job that he meets 19-year-old Adam(fresh-scrubbed Alex Pettyfer). Mike takes Adam under his wing, teaches him how to dress—and eventually undress—much to the dismay of Adam’s fetching sister, Brooke(adorable Cody Horn…which is lucky because it appears she can’t act). We go through the obvious set-ups after that—the rises, the falls, the drugs, some violence. Then, of course, Mike begins to fall for Brooke—wait for it—but she wants him to stop stripping. Guess how it all turns out?
So, you may end up asking, why am I recommending “Magic Mike”? Well, almost for the same reason I would tell you to see “Flashdance”. Or “Footloose”(the original). Or even the non-dancing, rags to-riches “Pretty Woman”. Or any one of a number of flicks that more than get by on a combination of star power and exuberance. And did I mention that “Magic Mike” has an Oscar-winning director? Soderbergh knows how to work this just right and Tatum apparently has a stripping background(me too, but it was chemical stripping supermarket and hair salon floors!)along with a co-producer buddy in Reid Carolin, who also penned the screenplay while loosely basing it on Channing’s own past. It’s light, it’s fun…I mean it’s nothing earth-shattering(year-end top ten lists for 2012…really?), but if a heterosexual guy in his mid 40’s can watch and enjoy it—chances are, so can you. Even if it does get all gushy and cliched and obvious in its second half. I mean, what did you think they were gonna do? “Magic Mike” will please the ladies, not annoy too many men and entertain most people for an hour and 45 minutes, or so. You can do a lot worse. Grade: B