Movie Reviews & Interviews from Washington

‘Magic Mike’ Review: Starring Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer & Joe Manganiello

If anyone can make a male stripper movie and make it watchable, fun, lively and charming, it’s Steven Soderbergh.

Soderbergh, known for his other films which include sex, lies and videotape, Traffic, Erin Brockovich and Ocean’s Eleven (the remake) is arguably one of the most diverse directors working today. It’s his unusual coloring of his films that really make him stand out as a filmmaker and his films extraordinary to watch. He makes both big-budget Hollywood films and art-house films, while frequently working with the same actors.

Earlier this year he directed Haywire, a brilliant and exciting film starring Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor and Channing Tatum. Tatum must have struck the right chord with Soderbergh, having been casted as the lead in Magic Mike and in Soderbergh’s next film, The Bitter Pill set to release February 2013. Tatum has already appeared in three films this year including The Vow, 21 Jump Street and his career has only just begun to flourish. Ironically before acting, Tatum’s first gig was stripping at a local nightclub and it wasn’t until 2006’s Step Up, that the actor was noticed in Tinseltown.

The film opens and we are introduced to Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), the owner of a popular male strip club in Tampa. He stands up on stage shirtless, dressed in tight leather pants and a black cowboy hat, egging his female driven audience for the show that’s about to come. Mike (Tatum), is the show’s starring act, although he works in construction during the day and is trying to open up his own custom furniture business with the cash he’s received as tips while performing onstage.

As the film progresses we meet the rest of the strippers who work at Dallas’ club; Ken (Matt Bomer), Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello), Tarzan (Kevin Nash) and Tito (Adam Rodriguez).

At his construction job, Mike meets Adam (Alex Pettyfer), the new kid in town, who first annoys Mike like a pebble in his shoe, but the two quickly connect and a “bromance” starts to ensue. Mike introduces Adam to his stripper lifestyle and soon after Dallas throws him up on stage to see what the young kid can do. Adam’s worry-some older sister, Brooke (newcomer Cody Horn) doesn’t care for her brother’s new job, but seems to be happy enough that he’s made some friends and is making money.

Normally, I think Pettyfer is a miscast actor (think I Am Number Four and that awful movie, Beastly) but he does surprisingly well in this film. Manganiello is shockingly underplayed with little dialogue and screen time, but for what is missed of him, Tatum certainly fills up. This is without a doubt Tatum’s best performance to date and the once-stripper is turning into an actor among actors.

Although the plot, trailers and movie posters make the film out to be a girls-night-out party film, it’s so much more than that and you might find yourself pleasantly surprised with Soderbergh’s portrait of the stripper lifestyle.

Soderbergh’s film is much more than a male stripper movie. It’s perfectly casted and has a fantastic script that takes a darker turn mid-way through the film. The story is fluid, realistic, energetic and Tatum creates a fascinating character to watch on screen.

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