Steven Soderbergh, always a champion of the film based on a true story, takes the tale of male stripper Mike Zeman and wields the direction of Magic Mike with his typical brand of long-winded shots, washed out cinematography, and minimalist dialogue. Not to say that Soderbergh’s filming methods aren’t consistently on point, it’s just that for this particular sort of film, his style seems clunky and bloviating. After all, this is a stripper movie–trying to force a meaningful message comes across as pretentious more than innovative.
Opening with Mike (everyone’s favorite muscle man, Channing Tatum) groggily awakening next to two women, producer-screenwriter Reid Carolin (whose only prior writing effort is the 2010 documentary Earth Made of Glass) gets straight to the point of why most audiences are going to see this movie: Channing Tatum unclothed. As he talks to one of his sexual partners, Joanna (Olivia Munn), about waking up the third party–neither of whom can remember her name–it is immediately evident that sex is something of a sport to Mike, never to be taken seriously (but then, what dude ever really takes sex seriously?). This particular omission of memory is the first sign of Mike’s emotional and psychological deficiencies.
Mike’s initial encounter with his unwitting protégé, Adam a.k.a. The Kid (the incredibly sexy, perhaps infinitely sexier than Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer), occurs on a construction job–hence Mike’s self-proclaimed title of “entrepreneur”–where Adam shows his duplicitous true colors by 1) Lying about his capabilities on his resume and 2) Stealing an extra can of Pepsi (obviously you know who contributed product placement funds to this movie).
Realizing instantaneously that Adam’s skills in the field of roofing, building or pretty much any form of construction are, at best, limited, Mike takes pity on him when Adam spots him later that night at a nightclub and asks if he can go inside with Mike. Taking one look at the scrubbish manner in which he is dressed, Mike reluctantly agrees, warning, “But you owe me one.” Once the two are inside, Adam is promptly seduced by what he will soon find out is a relatively tame Tampa lifestyle compared to where Mike is about to take him next.
When Mike tells Adam to start chatting up two drunk sorority girls by the bar, he isn’t at all prepared when Mike passes them a flier for a “male dance revue” later that night. Amused by his surprise, Mike invites Adam (who is only nineteen), to see the show. Upon meeting Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), the club’s eccentric (to put it mildly) owner, Adam is hesitantly given the chance to help the other dancers out with their props (you know, fire hoses, umbrellas, trench coats, that sort of thing). His role shifts quickly when one of the dancers, Tarzan (Kevin Nash, whose name you’ll understand when you see him), passes out drunk in the bathroom. With no one else to fill in, Adam goes onstage billed as “the Kid” and performs an awkward striptease to “Like A Virgin”–which everyone cums softly in her skirt over.
Excited by the attention, Adam eagerly accepts Dallas’ offer to start working. When Mike brings Adam home later that night, he has his first encounter with Adam’s sister, Brooke (Cody Horn, whose main credentials are in television, with Rescue Me and White Collar). Uptight and judgmental, Brooke is automatically skeptical of Mike’s influence on Adam. As she watches her brother transform over the brief span of three months, she finds herself simultaneously drawn to and repelled by Mike. But, while this is supposed to be the love story we’re interested in, it ends up paling in comparison in terms of interest factor when compared to Mike’s nebulous involvement with Joanna.
When it finally hits Mike that, to quote Brooke, he’s nothing more than “a 30-year-old male stripper,” it is already too late to get Adam back toward the road to redemption now that Dallas has announced his plans to move the revue to Miami. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a consolation in being able to bone Adam’s sister. And, in a way, that is the essence of what Magic Mike is about: If you can’t have one thing, you might as well distract yourself with another.