Magic Mike

Magic Mike

Comedy/Drama, 2012

110 minutes

Starring: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Matthew McConaughey, Cody Horn

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

Written by: Reid Carolin

Yes, Magic Mike is a movie about male strippers. And maybe that is reason enough, for some people, to see it. No judging if that’s you; in the words of Matthew McConaughey, “All right, all right, all right.” Most people don’t believe me when I explain that that wasn’t my motivation for watching it. Because, I guess, not everyone finds even the trailers for it freaking hilarious.

Okay, for starters: McConaughey pretty much plays himself—or at least the person I like to imagine he is—all oiled-up, bongo-playing smarmy charm. He has paintings and sculptures of himself scattered all throughout his house; basically, even breathing the same air as him will corrupt your innocence. He’s magnificent. (I’m pretty sure if Daniel Day-Lewis had played him, there’d be Oscar talk.) Secondly, Channing Tatum. This guy, despite having a ridiculous name that is equally as plausible forwards or backwards, is a gem. He is truly funny, which I get that most people don’t want to believe based on how he looks. But he is. He was (surprisingly) hilarious in 21 Jump Street, which was a straightforward comedy, and he is just as funny here, even though Magic Mike is, ostensibly, a drama.

But really it’s more of a dramedy. That’s because men taking off their clothes is inherently comical. It doesn’t feel exploitative or sad or dirty; it’s not as complicated as women taking off their clothes, which, no matter the circumstances, always has those nasty patriarchal overtones. The men in this movie have some control over their destiny: they’re in stripping for the money, the rush, and occasionally the drugs, but not because of some sad childhood or debilitating self-esteem issues. Thus, we can laugh at them, or with them, really, since they know how ridiculous they’re being. And they are, knowingly, being absurd.

You see, while men just want to see the clothes coming off; women enjoy the theatricality. Thus, the stripping scenes are all inventively choreographed, with cheesy themes like “It’s Raining Men” used to showcase the men’s many…talents. I honestly don’t think you have to be attracted to these men to be amused by their onstage antics. And, really, that is just one minor part of the film.

It is what happens offstage that makes Magic Mike more than just a “stripper movie.” There is a genuine story lurking there about the pitfalls of easy money, available drugs, and powerful fantasy. There are even ethical questions, which you might want to skip over if you’re just looking to enjoy some nearly-naked hot guys. But please don’t skip over them just to enjoy some nearly-naked hot guys. The hot guys will still be there when you’re done considering the ethical questions. Magic Mike, for all its pumping bass and flashing lights, is more significant than it appears to be. It’s not just tricks and theatrics, but story and substance. And for a movie that features a character named “Big Dick Richie,” that’s no small feat.

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