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Magic Mike

Remember when it got out that Channing Tatum had been a stripper before he was an actor? I forget if he said it in an interview or if it was Wikileaks or something, but there were alot of stories about it in the entertainment journalism and it was a big joke to everybody. But who’s laughing now, motherfuckers? Tatum found the best possible way to own that on the set of HAYWIRE when he convinced Steven Soderbergh that his experiences would make a good movie. It might’ve gone a different way if it was on the set of GI JOE and it was Stephen Sommers that ended up directing MAGIC MIKE. But Soderbergh is the guy to take any subject matter, find what’s interesting about it, bring out the innate and sometimes unknown talents of his cast, and shoot it beautifully. He’s made one of his little independent character pieces, but he threw in just enough shirtless cowboys humping stages to advertise that for the ladies.

And it was a huge hit. According to IMDb it cost about $7 million and made almost $114 million at the U.S. box office alone. They’re already planning a sequel. I wish it was HAYWIRE getting that, but I guess they don’t make alot of beefcake movies, so there’s room for it in the world. Good for you, ladies.

Tatum plays Mike, a guy on a roofing crew who immediately dislikes the new young chump Adam (Alex Pettyfer, aka ALEX RIDER: OPERATION STORMBREAKER) because he shows up to work wearing tennis shoes. But when Mike runs into the kid outside of a night club he reluctantly hangs out with him, gets him to hit on some young women, then gives them a flyer for one of his other jobs at the male strip joint Xquisite.

Adam mooches off of his sister/roommate (Cody Horn) and is in desperate need of work. Mike gets him into Xquisite to help with props, but of course he gets pushed on stage, has to learn the ropes, becomes enmeshed in the bow-tie, no-shirt lifestyle. (Actually, that’s not accurate. In modern male stripping, at least as depicted in this movie, they wear a regular tie and collar, but no overall shirt.)

Where do you take the plot from there? The big National Male Stripping Tournament that they have to win to save the club from evil real estate developers or from being bought out by Chippendales? No, this is a story about the ol’ American Dream of acquiring wealth and success, and perhaps the more modern American Sub-Dream of doing it with integrity and dignity. The Boss Man, Matthew McConaughey (who’s having fun but I wouldn’t say as great of a character as he had in TROPIC THUNDER or REIGN OF FIRE) wants to bring their scrappy little club into the big time by moving to Tampa. That’s the big break for these guys.

Adam’s story is part crime drama, part rock star biopic. The lifestyle only exacerbates how irresponsible he is. He starts dealing ecstasy through a guy from the club (that comedian Gabriel Iglesias), with some of the expected results. And his sister blames Mike. I’ve heard some criticisms that the guy-with-drug-problem part of the story is a cliche, but for me it works because it’s the subplot, the story always feels like it’s about Mike and this thing is only important for what it teaches Mike. It’s not the kid’s story. Forget about the kid.

Mike sees himself as an entrepreneur, he has a bunch of different businesses and the one he’s passionate about is cool furniture that he designs and builds out of recycled materials. But it takes his disastrous babysitting of dumbass Alex to make him realize that he’s fooling himself if he thinks he’s not mainly a stripper. You know how alot of people get a job when they’re young and they see it as a stepping stone to something else or just something to do for a little while, and the next thing you know they’re much older than they thought they’d get and they don’t know how the hell to move on? It’s kind of like that, except shirtless.

Ultimately it’s a romantic dramedy between Mike and the sister. It turns out Horn is the daughter of Warner Brothers President Alan Horn, and alot of people hate her and say she can’t act. I don’t know if that’s so in her other movies but here she’s got the director who can get a pretty good performance out of some lady he found working at a Kentucky Fried Chicken, and I really like her in it. She’s especially great at acting unimpressed with Mike but not being able to hide that she’s intrigued when it goes to a close up. I love when she comes to the club and watches his erotic STEP UP routine. She stands grimacing with her arms folded, but the lines on her cheeks threaten to smile, her eyes yearn to pop out of her head cartoon wolf style.

There’s another great scene where Mike goes in to the bank to try to get a loan for his furniture business. The woman he meets with (Betsy Brandt) can’t give him what he wants, and is completely flustered. She wants him like Meryl wanted Clint in BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY. It’s hilarious because it’s not played as comedy, not pointed out, and seems so authentic. These odd side journeys are one of Soderbergh’s many talents.

The wrestler Kevin Nash, who I know from THE PUNISHER (Thomas Jane edition), plays one of the strippers, called Tarzan. So WWE Films should’ve gotten in on this, they would’ve made a fortune.

Anyway, pretty good. Not embarrassed. I liked it.


VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Thursday, November 15th, 2012 at 11:38 pm and is filed under Drama, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

31 Responses to “Magic Mike”

  1. What have we here?: A solemn meditation on the trials & tribulations of modern American male strippers. Be still my beating heart.

    (Pass).

  2. is it just shirtless or do any of these guys strip down to a thong at some point?

  3. caruso_stalker217

    November 16th, 2012 at 1:54 am

    No banana hammock, no watch.

  4. Unless I can see Channing’s Tatums, I’m not interested.

  5. I’ve always found it a little odd that male actors so rarely show their Johnson’s, makes me sorry for all da ladies out there

  6. That’s one of the things that always make smile when I watch SPARTACUS (series). You would think in a show, that is so obviously targeted at a male audience, we would only see naked tits, but I think so far they showed twice as many penises per season.

    I’m cool with that. It always makes me cringe when I read comments from guys, who are disgusted when they see dicks on screen. I wonder how these guys watch porn. Are they tring to cover the penises with one hand? Or are they only watching the lesbian scenes, which would mean while they are afraid of something that is dangling between their own legs, they are still totally into gay porn.

  7. The only die hard fans of the SPARTACUS series that I know, are women. And now I know why.

  8. We are all die hard fans of SPARTACUS. If you think you aren’t, you just haven’t admitted it to yourself yet.

  9. Hey, I know a few female fans of the show too, I’m not saying that women don’t watch it.

  10. Actually I think SPARTACUS is aimed at the 300 audience, which for a large part consisted of women. Get in the boys with the tits and the violence, get the girls with the abs and the schlongs. Everybody wins!

  11. I like to think that Soderbergh could make a movie about any subject and it would be interesting, probably because so much of his deeply wierd sensibility is up there on the screen, the ostensible subjects become somewhat secondary.

    Same with Herzog but tenfold.

  12. Soberbergh for EPISODE VII! Herzog for EPISODE VIII! The audience at that crowd-sourced Beastie Boys concert film for EPISODE IX!

  13. “I’m cool with that. It always makes me cringe when I read comments from guys, who are disgusted when they see dicks on screen.”

    yeah, I don’t get it either, I mean what’s the big deal? you see your own dick all the time, just because you see another man’s dick doesn’t instantly mean you want to ride it

    “The audience at that crowd-sourced Beastie Boys concert film for EPISODE IX!”

    EPISODE IX: Awesome, I Fuckin’ Shot That!

  14. Stephen Sommers MAGIC MIKE would have featured a lot of hokey CGI dong effects.

  15. I’m from NZ. I know half the owners of said dong’s in Spartacus.

    Makes for some awkward party conversation.

  16. Griff:

    Correction: EPISODE IX: AWESOME, HAN FUCKIN’ SHOT FIRST!

  17. I love how they got Kevin Nash to be a male stripper despite the fact that the man can barely move. Watching the dance scenes in Magic Mike is hysterical just because they have to stick Nash in the back of the group, and when the other guys do something quick and athletic like dropping to the ground or doing some twists and jumps or whatever, Nash has to literally stand still and move his arms around, hoping that no one notices him in the background being completely immobile due to his terrible knees. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. Comedy. Gold.

  18. Majestyk – Brilliant. Just brilliant.

    (Nearly just enough to make me forgive you for being the local Debbie Downer. For now.)

    Chris – just imagine if Scott Hall was also in the movie. MORE COMEDY GOLD (IF ALSO DEPRESSING!)

  19. Yes! I wasn’t sure you’d review this Vern. I knew about your love of Soderbergh and our mutual appreciation for the Step Up films and Channing Tatum, but this seemed like a long shot for this site. Thanks for being Vern, Vern. I loved this movie, and not just for the dances and 5,000 abs on display. I thought it was a legitimately interesting and intriguing story, and I was riveted by Tatums performance. Unlike Vern, I was unable to find the magic in Cody Horn’s performance. I found her stiff and largely unlikeable. Nonetheless, she didn’t stop me from loving Magic Mike.

    Plus, Olivia Munn bare breasts and Tatum’s bare ass. Daaaaaaamn. Thank you blu ray.

  20. Very much so Griff. Now go rent Magic Mike.

  21. I guess MAGIC MIKE is my KILL LIST. I’m glad it makes everyone happy but I just saw through the formula one dimensional story, that was paid surprising attention instead of gratuitous dance scenes. But KILL LIST was my KILL LIST too, so I guess I got two KILL LISTS.

  22. Dear Santa,

    As Christmas Day draws near, I feel the desire to wax euphoric:

    The peaceful flutter of snowflakes as they touch the ground and color the landscape a gentle white.
    The hearty laughter of family & friends as we gather around a robust fireplace, sipping eggnog and trading merry tales.
    The look on that chump’s face three years ago on Christmas Eve, when my homey Jamaal & I jacked his sleigh enroute to his grammy’s house. Admittedly, we were quite baked courtesy of some Lebanese hash, but that’s beside the point.

    So, with that in mind Santa ole chum… I have but one humble present request this Christmas: can you hook a brutha up with a Soderbergh-Approved Magic Mike Belly Chain? I truly believe it would enhance my sexy immeasurably, and help me ring in the New Year with some high quality poontang.

    Seriously, hoss… don’t bump this mug onto your pay-no-mind list and leave me hangin’. Because if you did, I just MIGHT feel compelled to:
    1.) Harken back to my pimp days, recruit your elves, and run the Macdaddy of all trains on Mrs. Claus.
    2.) Brandish my Buck Knife and cut up Rudolph into bite-size pieces, then use him to make chili.
    3.) Burn your workshop to the ground and piss on the ashes.

    I like to think I’m a reasonable man, Santa… but
    Do
    Not
    FUCK W/ME.
    Thanks bud.

    Your pal,
    Larry

  23. It seems kinda weird for me that from the trailer (and Vern’s review, I guess) this film about male strippers(a rare thing) apparently doesn’t do anything to make being a stripper “okay” if its something the protagonist isn’t that into and has this dark side to it.
    Based of Vern’s take, I might watch it when it comes to cable, but until then, I’ll stick to THE FULL MONTY, thank you very much. In fact, review that, Vern.

  24. Didn’t think this movie would be my cup of tea but it turns out I was wrong. Soderbergh can pretty much make a 2 hour movie about a guy taking a dump and it would be interesting at this point.

  25. Im one of the few ladies here, and I had no desire to see this movie until I was reminded that Soderbergh directed it. (I’ve never had a good experience with strippers and am not into Tatum’s looks. If they had a Matt Damon or Ryan Reynolds stripper movie, I would own it.) My sister, on the other hand, watches it three times in one night, practically back-to-back, so maybe I can use this movie as a gateway drug to her actually sitting down and watching Out of Sight. She keeps saying I need to see The Notebook, so maybe it can be a trade-off.

  26. ANoninMouse,you should check out THE NOTEBOOK. Its awesome. Hardcore badass romance. I kind of wish Vern would review it one day. Maybe it’s my own badass juxtaposition, but I even take all my notes in a THE NOTEBOOK notebook.

  27. I used to get the feeling that Soderbergh’s been trying to subvert crowdpleasing genres instead of embracing them, as if giving the audience what they want might be beneath him (or more likely, not interesting to him). How else to explain why Haywire ended up being an arthouse movie audiences hated instead of the female Bourne movie audiences wanted? Or explain why he casted a pornstar in the lead role of The Girlfriend Experience but then had her have zero sex scenes and only involved fleeting, non-erotic nudity.

    I actually loved both of those movies (and Bubble) but was worried that Soderbergh might be pulling a fast one again w Magic Mike. I wouldn’t have been surprised one iota if the stripping scenes were marginalized and barely shown and the dark drama stuff was the whole movie. Fortunately he had the good sense not to do that this time, but a part of me actually wishes it ended up being like Vern’s joking description involving the National Male Stripping Tournament or whatever. Replacing a feel-good cliche story with a dark cliche story just didn’t do it for me.

    Also *SPOILER* I agree w/ Stu – I honestly feel like I missed something with the ending – Mike leaving the business didn’t feel triumphant or even earned or developed – it’s the other classic Hollywood trope of “we’re going to titillate you with this movie about strippers/porn stars but then frown on this lifestyle”. I mean shit, the business seemed pretty awesome until The Kid fucked it up for Mike. And i don’t get why him leaving right when they need him on the last night ever was something we were supposed to applaud. It was like a weird reversal of 8 Mile’s classic ending where Eminem wins the rap battle on his lunch break and goes back to work to finish out his shift.

  28. Side Effects— I’m calling this one out as an in-the-park home run. Highly recommended, and not just for Soderbergh fans. I just got back from seeing this, and didn’t know where to post about it.

    If you’ve seen the trailer or the TV spots, then you kinda already know what happens over the first 30 or so minutes. It’s everything that transpires AFTERwards that makes it interesting. Probably best that I don’t elaborate further.

    This was my first time seeing Rooney Mara in a movie, and I was ready to write her off as an actress who got where she is by being connected higher up, but no… now I understand why she got a Best Actress nomination for Fincher’s version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. She has the pivotal role in this movie, and pulls it off quite deftly.

    On a side note, I read somewhere that she was Kathryn Bigelow’s first choice for the female lead in Zero Dark Thirty, but had a prior commitment (this movie?). Too bad; she’d most likely have nailed it.

  29. Hey guys, if anyone’s interested, here’s the transcript to the keynote address Steven Soderbergh gave at the San Francisco Internation Film Festival. I hope the dude isn’t retiring for realsies. I want HAYWIRE 2.

  30. I need a little help. Is there some alternate version of this movie? Because, I swear, the first time I saw it, after he backflips off that bridge and they’re bobbing up and down in the river, he says something along the lines of ‘Everything should be backflips.’ But the other times I watched it (one full viewing, bits and pieces on cable), he doesn’t say that. (He might not even backflip, just jump – it’s been awhile.)

    Does anybody else remember this, or was I just really high?

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