Channing Tatum takes it off again in a story inspired by his early work as a male stripper. Steven Soderbergh directs.
As director Steven Soderbergh (“Contagion”) seductively and teasingly peels away the layers of his “Magic Mike,” the only thing he reveals is that this behind-the-curtain look at the world of male strippers is nothing more than the same old schlong and dance. It’s all style and little substance. In fact, Soderbergh’s stylized stamp and attention to detail overwhelm this bad boy.
However, and it hurts to say, but “Magic Mike” is pretty magic-less. Once you get past the chiseled bodies and stars-and-stripes G-strings, all you’re left with is the naked truth that this is just another stripper-with-a-heart-of-gold flick.
The exotic dancer at its heart is Hollywood It-Guy, Channing Tatum (also a producer), in the titular role of Mike. And his bare butt fully graces the screen in his first scene – the morning after a tryst with two girls. One is the uber-talented Olivia Munn, who Soderbergh totally wastes. The second, well, we never see her face, only her curvy bare backside.
From there the screenplay – written by Reid Carolin – bumps and grinds along with Mike, a struggling furniture maker who lays roofs by day and, lays . . ., well, you know the drill. Mike strips because the money is good and he needs to build a nest egg to start his business. Just like Demi Moore needed cash to regain custody of her kid in “Striptease.” The intentions are good.
The film is based loosely on Tatum’s former stripper days. And, like he was in “21 Jump Street,” Tatum is funny and charming with a million-dollar smile. But, his smile isn’t what you want to see, especially when he’s mostly seen, sans clothes, dry-humping horn-a-licious women. His wand is magic, all right.
Problems arise when Soderbergh gets away from the fly-on-the-wall aspect of his movie to focus on a budding love story and Mike’s growing moral conflict. He just wants to be loved, you know, and no one, including his 2 a.m. booty call (Munn) and the bank’s loan officer, takes him seriously.
The only thing striving harder for credence is the movie. No doubt, it’s an interesting life backstage at Tampa’s Club Xquisite, what with all that manscaping, waxing, penis-pumping and other particulars. But it would have been better served by a documentary rather than this rote narrative.
In a nutshell: Over the course of one hard-partying summer, Mike takes Adam – a newbie dubbed, “The Kid” (a wooden-per-usual Alex Pettyfer), under his wing and falls in love with Adam’s straight-laced and unavailable sister (a terrific Cody Horn). Approaching 30, Mike wants something more. He’s got entrepreneurial dreams to fulfill. To get there, he’s partnering with Matthew McConaughey’s strip-club owner, Dallas, to open a beefcake emporium in Miami. Naturally, stuff gets in the way.
Page 2 of 2 - In a role he was born to play, the oft-shirtless McConaughey makes good use of his sexy Southern drawl and fantastic physique. All the men – Tatum, Pettyfer, Joe Manganiello (“True Blood”) and Adam Rodriguez (“CSI: Miami”) – are more than deserving of the dollars thrust in their thongs, while getting down and dirty in dance routines like “It’s Raining Men,” and naughty cop, Tarzan and firefighter bits. And, when the action moves out of the debaucherous confines of the club, the movie is like McConaughey’s backless chaps – it’s stuffed with treats, but has glaring holes. Then again, who’s coming to the theater for the story?
MAGIC MIKE (R for pervasive sexual content, brief graphic nudity, language and some drug use.) Cast includes Channing Tatum and Alex Pettyfer. 2 stars out of 4.
Dana Barbuto may be reached at email@example.com.