Magic Mike Unwrapped

Women of a variety of ages flocked to the movie theaters to see the likes of Channing Tatum. Matthew McConaughey, Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, and Adam Rodriquez take their clothes off in Steven Soderbergh’s male stripper drama. They got laughs, flesh, and a little drama.

Tatum plays the title character, an “entrepreneur” who strips by night to save for his life long dream of being a custom furniture maker. He brings in a college drop out (played by Alex Pettyfer) who becomes known on stage as The Kid. Mike takes him under his wing teaching how to dance and what male stripping is about: fulfilling women’s fantasies. Mike and the crew are working on opening their dance review in Miami but issue with The Kid and kid sister cause him to rethink his life,

The film includes a compelling plot, but it tries too hard. While it seems simple, screenwriter Reid Carolin throws in so many complexities the viewer gets bored. For example, Mike has three part time jobs as while trying to start up his furniture company. He also has not one, but two, lover interests. Carolin even throws in a little All About Eve context with The Kid. All this bogs down the forward action of the movie.

Magic Mike is strong on two levels. The first, of course, is that it is visually striking. The whole movie has been thoughtfully set up. The ecstasy scene is filmed in such a way that the audience wonders if they are tripping as well. Soderbergh also captures the men’s movements as they dance and gyrate making the dance sequences just as exciting as the clothing removal. There aren’t gratuitous crotch shots or close up of bare butts. The choreographer does a wonderful job of showing what the fluidity of the human body and the director captures this brilliantly. This culminates in Tatum’s routine to “Pony,” the best sequence in the film.

The second is that it is thought provoking. Stay with me here. The movie has a very sociological side as the audience delves into the world of male stripping. The boys actually dance and do acrobatic feats in an effort to facilitate women’s fantasies. While there are lap dances, there doesn’t seem to be an overlay of prostitution. Where as so many movies show off the sin and naughtiness of the female clubs, the male venues are more about full entertainment than a peep show.  Viewers watch Mike evolve as a character, and we see what these men actually think and do. They are regular people with an unusual job. Watching this and comparing the differences of the male strip world is actually very fascinating.

For all its flesh, laughs, and smooth dance moves, Magic Mike tells a story, a story about how we see our lives and what our life really is.