It’ll make you want to buy a BowFlex and a Gym Membership
It’s easy to see why Hollywood executives would want Channing Tatum to be the next big movie star and leading man. He’s a remarkably good looking guy with plenty of presence and charisma that radiates off the screen. He’s also in remarkably good shape, too, and has a quirky enough back story that separates him from the rest of the pretty boy actors who got into drama because they weren’t athletic in high school. He also had a brief stint in his life as a male stripper, which is something always pointed out but never really acted upon until now. A semi-biographical look at his life, Magic Mike has one fatal flaw that is directly impacted from the one that has prevented Tatum from becoming the sort of major star he’s been pushed down our throats as.
He’s not all that skilled as an actor, especially whenever his dialogue lasts longer than four words. He has occasional flashes of brilliance, as there are some solid acting chops waiting to come out (and have on occasion), but on the whole he’s a pretty face and not much more.
Tatum stars as the titular Mike, a small business owner & entrepreneur, his main source of income comes from his work as the headline talent for a male strip club owned by the enigmatic Dallas (Matthew McConaughey). When one of his side jobs puts him into contact with Adam the Kid (Alex Pettyfer), the Kid’s life changes forever as his descent into the world of stripping, drugs and good times changes everything. Leading him through this world is Mike, who wants to get out but just can’t quite get a bank to fund his dream of starting his own custom furniture company.
It’s an interesting film for mainstream audiences from Steven Soderbergh, who cuts and shapes the film like he was designing it for art-houses instead. There are two distinctive styles from the man when it comes to how he presents his films. When it’s the big budget, studio fare he opts for a less distinctive approach; he’s much more experimental on his small films in terms of his color tones and composition. He takes that approach for Magic Mike, throwing in some interestingly lighted scenes and camera setups. He’s creative in how he designs the film and shoots the big male stripping scenes with the gusto of a Michael Bay production. It’s a fairly well designed film and perhaps his best yet in terms of pure spectacle. And it would normally be one you could consider his best if not for one thing.
Tatum plays a central role in it … and he’s about his usual mediocre self. He’s shown glimpses of talent in a handful of indie films but on the whole whenever the budget gets somewhere respectable he just doesn’t have that final push to bring out the final piece of a leading man.
With a remarkably effective turn from Matthew McConaughey, and an empty vessel approach from Pettyfer as the lead through which we experience this world of drugs and dancing, having a tremendous performance from the one character with an actual interesting story arc would make the film into something remarkable with something to say. Mike is a guy who is seeing his replacement in a business predicated on youth; at age 30 he’s an old man in the stripping game as a main event. He knows this but past mistakes still haunt him; he’s desperate to get out and finding that all his best laid plans may be for naught.
The film’s interesting moments occur to everyone around him but somehow end up focusing on Mike. It’s the same thing that happened to Mark Wahlberg in The Fighter, where everyone on the cast but him ended up getting Oscar nominations. For a central character he feels best left to the sidelines and yet he’s in the starting lineup of the film, the central character that has to help give the film shape and flow.
With any other actor in that part Magic Mike could’ve been much more than it ends up becoming: a failed experiment into the world of male strippers. While the film will make you look in the mirror, and then go straight to the gym, it won’t do anything more than be something that’s a step up from Showgirls in terms of films about strippers but not much more.
Director: Steven Soderbergh Writer: Reid Carolin Notable Cast: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Matthew McConaughey, Cody Horn, Olivia Munn
Scott Sawitz is an Inside Pulse original. He's also been featured on The Ultimate Fighter.com, Fox Sports.com, Nerdcore Movement.com, CagePotato.com, Inside Fights.com and Film Arcade.net (among others). When Scott isn't writing about film he's making his own. Check out Drunk Justice Productions right here.