Based on the trailers, it would be fair to assume that Magic Mike is basically Showgirls, but with shirtless studs instead of busty ladies—and there’s nothing wrong with that! Let’s face it, women are objectified on screen all the time, so it’s only fair that we’d get to ogle sexy, shirtless studs every now and then. Unfortunately, Magic Mike also has a story and tries to showcase the acting “talents” of its star, Channing Tatum. What we end up with is too much poorly delivered dialogue and not enough six-packs.
The film is loosely based on Tatum’s real-life experience as a male stripper. He plays Mike, the coolest, most popular, most charming guy in Tampa who also headlines as a stripper in the Xquisite Male Dance Revue. Mike befriends The Kid (Alex Pettyfer), a 19-year-old who has the potential to be greatest stripper this town has ever seen. He takes The Kid to the club to meet club owner Dallas (Matthew McConaughey) and the other dancers. There’s Ken (Matt Bomer), Tito (Adam Rodriguez), Tarzan (former wrestler Kevin Nash), and Big Dick Richie (everyone’s favorite werewolf, Joe Manganiello).
We get to see a few performances and a bit of interaction between the guys, but we’re left wishing we knew a lot more about each of them and the chemistry of their group. There’s a shot of Tarzan drugged up and passed out backstage, but we never explore his character beyond that. Manganiello, who is the primary reason I wanted to see the film in the first place, is grossly underused, especially considering he’s the fittest of the whole gang. We’ve seen him on True Blood, we know he’s great, so why only put him in five minutes of the movie?
The strip scenes are fun and entertaining, but because this is a Steven Soderberg film, we have to have an actual storyline and drama. Mike falls for The Kid’s sister (Cody Horn) and starts breaking apart from the world he once knew, which is an attempt to give him some depth, though I’d rather have more shots of Tatum dancing than acting. There’s also some stuff with his fake girlfriend (Olivia Munn) and The Kid getting mixed up with the wrong kind of girl (Riley Keough, granddaughter of The King) and selling drugs, but it all feels a tad cliché.
Let me make it clear, I don’t object to movies that try to be more than just sexy people walking around being sexy, but that’s not how this film has been advertised and it leads to a pretty disappointing viewing experience. In the screening I attended, the almost entirely female crowd went from hooting and hollering to snoring in their seats by the end of the second act. They get us in the door with the promise of abs and pecs, but then give us a scene of Tatum crying alone in his car or struggling to articulate his feelings to his love interest. The dude is just not a dramatic actor, which is fine because he’s funny and he’s got a rockin’ bod, but he shouldn’t attempt a performance like this.
Overall, the film is a let down because it bills itself as a fun movie for girls and gays to enjoy, but becomes a bad mashup of Purple Rain, Showgirls and Traffic. We’ve waited long enough, Hollywood! We deserve to see some hot beefcakes exploited and objectified for our entertainment after decades of hot, silicone-enhanced girls projected 30 feet high in movie theaters everywhere.