Have to love that moment when a room full of women eager to see "Showgirls, With Guys!" realizes they are watching a Steven Soderbergh movie.
"Magic Mike"is not "Showgirls." It isn't "Striptease," or that terrible Lindsay Lohan stripper movie that shall not be named. This is a movie about a charismatic, immature 30 year-old who happens to make cash by dancing at a not fully-nude strip club.
That's right. You will see no male genetalia in this movie, at least not in focus. In fact, you will see more FEMALE naughty parts than anything of the male variety.
I bring this up because much of the "Magic Mike" audience will be there to see just that. There was this pent-up, I'll-Have-A-Beefcake-With-A-Side-Of-Thong energy to the preview screening I attended as the lights went down. Gasps could be heard as Channing Tatum's bare backside was shown for the first time. This crowd was ready to see the things they don't get to see in movies - men shamelessly paraded as sexual objects for the enjoyment of the crowd. While there is some of that, the movie is much more a tale about an immature 30 year-old who comes to grips with the fact that it is time to grow up, and he happens to be a dancer.
Channing Tatum plays Mike, and I have no problem saying he is Magic. People are born with certain gifts, and this man can command this kind of position. He is ridiculously charming, masculine, and flexible. Women love him. As Adam (Alex Pettyfer), the younger dancer Mike takes under his wing, says, "We should be best friends!" This is the dude at the center of so many dude circles - he attracts women like a bug zapper.
Life for Mike is spectacular. We open with him smiling as two naked women lay in his bed. He leaves them there in the morning, one still passed out, the other smiling after she tells him she'll call him sometime. We know she will. Because he is MAGIC MIKE.
He works a construction job and earns twice the rate of the other workers. By night, he skips the lines at popular night clubs. And he is the signature dancer at a male revue, earning thousands of dollars without ever having to take off his thong.
But because this is a movie, we know life cannot stay spectacular for Mike. Enter Adam's protective sister Brooke (Cody Horn). She is the quiet, stern-gazing reminder that Mike is biding his time before facing the real world. Men cannot gyrate through life laying two shingles in one night. They cannot take drugs recreationally and fill their G-strings with dollar bills and be considered productive members of society. And it takes a mild-mannered woman to get chisel away at Mike's dirty outer layers.
Director Soderbergh, with a script from Reid Carolin, chooses to avoid too much backstory. We only know that Mike is financially wrecked with a bad credit rating, but we don't know why. We know Adam has years of baggage that lead to some horrendously bad decisions, but we don't know exactly what he did. While too much exposition can really slow a movie like this down, too little leads to characters we never truly get to know. The most interesting moments of this movie happen after the closing kitchen table sequence, as two characters are about to have a very interesting conversation we never get to hear.
But wait, I'm not seeing something called "Magic Mike" to hear conversations! Less yappin' and more cheek slappin', you say! Well, in this regard, the movie is wildly entertaining. Tatum, as I stated early, is an extremely able man on the dance floor - not surprisingly considering this movie is loosely based on his own experience as an 18 year-old male stripper. The dance routines are clever, inventive, and dare I say fun to watch?
Yet the movie really lost my interest every time it drifted from Mike to less compelling characters and scenarios. There is a silly subplot involving drug dealing that does nothing more than add an element of danger to the movie, an element it didn't need. There's some late tension between Mike and Matthew McConaughey's sleazy club owner that, while unfortuante, is predictable. And the development of the friendship between Adam and Mike feels way too forced and unlikely.
There is a great movie in here somewhere, but MAGIC MIKE never really gets there. There's plenty of magic on the dance floor, I guess I was looking for more Mike. And yes, I realize I'm in the minority on this one.
MAGIC MIKE earns a Leshock Value of $6 out of a possible $10.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun