Movie review: 'Magic Mike' sure to cast a spell

Part "Working Girl," part "42nd Street," director Steven Soderbergh's "Magic Mike" is a wonderfully low-fat summer treat.

Based on star Channing Tatum's real-life experiences as an exotic dancer, his eponymous character is working his way toward making enough money to start a handmade furniture business, one lap dance at a time.

Like Tess McGill, Mike's got "a head for business and a bod for sin."

'Magic Mike'

3 stars = Good
Ratings explained
  • Starring: Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, Alex Pettyfer, Joe Manganiello.
  • Rating: R for pervasive sexual content, brief graphic nudity, language and some drug use.

He also has big dreams for the future, and they don't include wearing a gold lame thong when he's middle-age. But Mike is the main attraction at Tampa's Club Xquisite, where the owner, Dallas -- excellently played with smarmy, good ol' boy glee by Matthew McConaughey -- has plans of his own.

The big time has come calling: Oh yes, it's Ladies Night and the feeling's right in Miami. Dallas wants to move the club, and his "Kings of Tampa" with it, but Mike is skeptical.

Enter attractive but immature punk Adam (Alex Pettyfer). Sure, he's underage, but he's a natural on stage, and when one of the regular dancers is incapacitated, The Kid is born.

Mike and Dallas see reflections of themselves in Adam, who we learn blew a college football scholarship by getting into a fight with a coach. He's just drifting around, living off his sister, Brooke (Cody Horn), and doing petty, stupid stuff such as swiping cans of Pepsi from a construction site.

After a chance meeting, Mike takes Adam under his wing and introduces him to the brotherhood of the thong.

Mr. Soderbergh won an Academy Award for directing "Traffic" in 2000, and the man knows how to get the best out of an ensemble. Of course, he's had fun, too, such as with the "Ocean's" trilogy. Despite some heavy undertones involving drug use and Mike's growing sense that he's never going to really escape the exotic dance racket, make no mistake: The cast of the six impossibly buff and polished Xquisite troupe had a good time on stage.

Which means the audience does as well.

When we first see Mt. Lebanon native Joe Manganiello's "Big Dick Richie," he's working at a sewing machine, wearing glasses and a bandana to keep the hair out of his eyes. His colleagues are all in various states of getting ready for a show; the scene has a documentary feel to it.

Joining him and Mike for the "It's Raining Men" opening number are fellow Carnegie Mellon University alumnus Matt Bomer, professional wrestler Kevin Nash and "CSI: Miami" star Adam Rodriguez.

Mr. Soderbergh said he encouraged the actors to hang out together ("There's nothing like shared potential for humiliation to bond people"), and it's this part of the dramedy that makes a more lasting impression than the storyline involving Mike's romance with Brooke or Adam's increasingly decadent rise to success as a performer.

In tone and execution of Reid Carolin's screenplay, "Magic Mike" proves that men are from Mars, women from Venus, or perhaps, it's Jupiter, Fla.? Unlike the typical image of a solitary businessman eyeing female exotic dancers -- no "Bada Bing" here -- we have gaggles of giggling sorority sisters and housewives all too happy to stuff dollar bills into the men's sequined briefs.

"Magic Mike" unabashedly earns its R rating, ramping up the nudity and raunchiness while somehow making in-your-face crotch-grabbing seem more fun than sexually threatening. Directed by just about anyone else, this might have been "Boogie Nights," with dance numbers.

Instead, it turns the tables on objectifying the sexes while providing summer-weight entertainment.

A "Magic" trick, indeed.


Maria Sciullo: or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG. First Published June 29, 2012 4:00 AM


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