Like he did with previous effort Haywire, director Steven Soderbergh reverses and exploits traditional gender roles with slightly above-average results in this film about the glamour of perfectly chiselled male strippers onstage and the behind-the-scenes antics that consume them.
Based on his pre-famous past as a male stripper, rising star Channing Tatum exudes self-deprecating charm as Mike, a 30-year-old, aspiring entrepreneur who strips at Florida club Xquisite, which is run by goofy, sleazy owner Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), in hopes of eventually saving enough one-dollar bills to start a customized furniture business.
In an attempt to fill his empty life with purpose, Mike takes under his wing an unambitious, broke 19-year-old boy named Adam (Alex Pettyfer) and introduces him to the world of stripping, befriending Adam's older sister, Brooke (Jennifer Carpenter/Kristen Stewart hybrid newcomer Cody Horn), in the process. However, when Adam gets lured into the drug scene, Mike's world gets turned upside down when all of his well laid plans are torn apart.
The first half of Magic Mike is full of promise, featuring Tatum's best performance since A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints, with his remarkable dance moves and subtle acting on-screen. Unfortunately, by the second half it's apparent this experimental and slightly improvised film is far more focused on looking like a constant stream of Instagram photos, being neither as raunchy advertised nor as thought-provoking.
Besides the scene-stealing Matthew McConaughey, the rest of the supporting stripper cast (mainly known TV actors) are reduced to dry-humping women onstage. Aside from the film's most hilarious and gratuitous shot of Joe Manganiello using a penile pump, the nudity and sex scenes are tastefully shot and glossed over in typical Soderbergh fashion, which may disappoint those hoping to see celebrity penises out of their g-strings.
Although Magic Mike is easily better than most stripper movies we've seen on the big screen, it's not the romantic comedy/tragic drama or the male version of Flashdance it promises to be. (Warner)