Mike Slams It

Steven Soderbergh‘s Magic Mike (Warner Bros., 6.29) is one of those summer films that comes along once in a blue moon — a fun romp filled with yoks and swagger and whoo-hoo, but also sharp, wise and shrewdly observed, and flush with indie cred. And quite funny for the first two-thirds. If this thing isn’t a fairly big hit in the States there’s going to be a lot of complaining on this site. I’m sick to death of people paying to see only the big crap movies while occasionally blowing off the really fine smaller ones.

Every frame in Magic Mike tells you someone super-smart and focused is running the operation, and Soderbergh (serving again as his own dp under the name Peter Andrews) lays on the atmosphere by using a faintly reddish sepia color scheme with a vaguely hung-over aura — his way of saying “Look, this is me, okay? Nothing too bright or luscious or HBO-attractive. We’re kickin’ it, obviously, but digging into character.”

Trailers always lie but the Magic Mike trailers are really lying. They’re selling only the cheap stuff. This thing is way better than what you might expect.

As Mike, a Tampa-residing, cock-rocking male stripper facing his 30s and the pressure to build his life (he dreams of being a high-end furniture designer) into something with a semblance of a future, Channing Tatum scores big-time with his first genuinely decent role and performance — I was completely in his corner all the way, admiring his skill and ease with a role that touches all the right bases. And 22 year-old newcomer Alex Pettyfer hits a ground-rule double as Adam, a.k.a. “The Kid” — a proverbial good-looking innocent whose arc acquaints us with the male-stripping realm and all the behavioral pitfalls.

Matthew McConaughey, whose career has really turned around over the last couple of years, hits a solid triple as Dallas, the owner-manager of the strip club Xquisite, nailing every line and delivering the requisite hoots and cock-of-the-walk sleaze. And Cody Horn, as Adam’s skeptical older sister, hits nothing but true notes in a role that’s basically about slowly shaking her head and nagging a bit, a character who’s always saying “Okay, guys, you’re making money and a lot of whoopee but when are you gonna get real?” But she’s not tedious — she’s honest and steady and investable at every turn.


Alex Pettyfer, Channing Tatum in Magic Mike.

The very first scene shows a strutting, bare-chested, leather-pants McConaughey delivering a show intro to a roomful of cheering, half-bombed women, and you’re thinking right away, “Okay, this feels standard — a typical way to start a movie about male strippers.” And then boom — Soderbergh cuts to black and then to a groggy Tatum waking up in bed after a threesome with an occasional hook-up (Olivia Munn) and a sleeping nude girl whose name neither of them can recall. And right away you’re thinking, “Wow, this is good…the dialogue (by first-time scripter Reid Carolin, who’s also Tatum’s producing partner) is canny and astute and cuts to the quick, and the acting feels natural and unforced.”

And you just relax. You know you’re in good hands. God, what a relief!

All it takes is one standout like Magic Mike to wash away the crud and part the clouds and make everything feel right again. Is it a great movie? No, but there’s very little in it — almost nothing — that doesn’t feel right. Okay, the last third feels a bit predictable and the final scene doesn’t quite deliver one of those final closure notes that we all talk about months or years later, but it’s good enough. More than good. Anyone who says this film doesn’t cut it needs to hit refresh and watch it again, and anyone who says it flat-out blows is a moron, and if he/she wants to make anything out of that I’ll see them outside after the film.

Yes, I intend to see Magic Mike at least another couple of times. It works the way all good movies do. It turns you on with smarts and honesty and sophistication, and sends you out on a high.


Tatum, Cody Horn, Olivia Munn.

61 thoughts on “Mike Slams It

  1. you cant name 10 guys outside of the press who will go see this..Soderbergh is a ‘man without a country’ making cool indie stuff that no one will see. All his A list Hollywood friends have moved on and he’s stuck making ‘im still hip movies’ way outside the big tent..

  2. Never thought we’d see the day that Jeff Wells was so passionate about a male stripper movie starring Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey that he is willing to fist-fight anyone who badmouths it outside the theater.

  3. it’s probably good, lots of cool witty dialogue and ultra real emotions but like most films these days it’ll have zero impact. the win is in getting a film made these days it seems. if its good or not or if anyone sees it is almost a non issue. i saw haywire it was ok but..whatever.. You have to want to make the movies that everyone will be talking about, like Prometheus or Inception, a guy like Soderbergh who is technically ahead of the curve should be hitting us with some huge idea, something on a grand scale visually and or emotionally. the studios would want something like that from him, a tent pole picture but instead he’s churning out 90′s bullshit…we get it Steve your cool..

  4. THE FULL MONTY (’97)

    Can’t help but think that if Rob Marshall directed this film, it wouldn’t have gotten the same attention no matter how “shrewdly observed” it was.

  5. Which one of these characters is gay?

    Just sayin’- there aren’t many straight male strippers, the late Patrick Swayze and Chris Farley excepted.

  6. Alex Pettyfer sucked in I Am Number Four, so good for him if a different director has made a better actor of him. Sounds like Taylor Kitsch should have been in this movie too.

    Ray – I place odds on the Matt Bomer character.

  7. having already lived through the spate of male stripper movies of the ’80s, i had very little interest in this one but left the theater very impressed with tatum’s performance and soderbergh’s take…that said, i did find it odd that, given the setting, the only gay character was the overweight, drug-dealing, latino d.j……

  8. Wells, what would constitute a “big hit” for Magic Mike in your opinion?

    Soderbergh is not exactly BO gold and neither is Tatum. There are few if any other directors who are so adored by critics yet ignored by audiences, so why would Magic Mike, a film without stars, be a big hit? Haywire BO looks likely…

  9. “Bubble.” “The Girlfriend Experience.” “And Everything is Going Fine.” “The Informant!” “Che,” divided into two long parts.

    For years I’ve suspected that Soderbergh has been testing my fandom, repeatedly trying and failing to make a movie I simply have no interest in seeing.

    With “Magic Mike,” he’s finally succeeded.

    And I’ll see almost anything.

  10. I bet they don’t strip to any Prince songs (Showgirls, Striptease) and I bet there’s no gay subplot or characters, keeping it realistic! Male stripping looks so labored and forced.

  11. So Pettyfer is our “entry” character into the world?

    ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

    Lazy, lazy, lazy writing. I fucking HATE the new guy who serves as the audience’s entry point into the world of a film. That device is so fucking tired.

    Wake me up when Soderbergh decides to make good movies again. This guy has been doing total shit since Solaris, his last movie that could be considered a success.

    Can anyone explain what exactly is indie about this movie’s content? Seems like standard rom-com fake bullshit to me.

  12. Wells to Travis McGee: You’re just not listening. And living in a bunker, determined not to be reached. All I can do is tell you as honestly and solemnly as I can that your instinct (as opposed to a well-considered, fully thought-out decision) to avoid “Magic Mike” couldn’t wronger or more bull-headed. It’s a really good film.

  13. SO many of the women I know are eager to see this. I don’t think they’ll let me come along. They are baffled that I even asked. But I WILL see this!

  14. I’m not sure Jeffrey is a fair judge of Soderbergh quality. Just the fact that he really pushed Haywire, Contagion, and Che, tells you all you need to know.

  15. You are completelly mad if you think any, or at least, most, of the guys who frequent this site are going to go see this. Gender split for the audience will be something like 90/10.

  16. Off topic, but seriously, someone needs to look into the performance of this site. Has it been intermittently dragging for everyone else?

  17. Also, this film seems to have a fundamental flaw from the start. Magic Mike is:

    A male stripper
    … with a dream to design furniture
    … yet is not gay.

  18. Yeah, movies quad is dead on. Wells – as right as he is on most directors – is not objective when it comes to Sodebergh. Haywire was completely awful and had nothing going for it at all. Even the fighting pales when compared to superior films like The Raid. The Informant! was completely underwhelming and didn’t hold my attention at all. Che was insufferable and indulgent. Soderbergh peaked in 2000 with two excellent films but has been going downhill ever since.

  19. Will you lay off the fucking gay stuff? Jesus! The film is based on Tatum’s own experience as a stripper. God, like a bunch of crotchety stubborn old men here!

  20. For me, avoiding “Mike” has nothing to do with sexual orientation or “gay stuff.”

    It’s simply a subject and an environment I don’t want to spend 1 hour and 50 minutes with. Just not interested.

    And Wells, if Soderbergh had instead made a movie about kids with bikes, or hard-drinking chain smokers (subjects you’ve dismissed outright in the past) you’d be singing a different tune, I’m sure.

    And speaking of 1 hour and 50 minutes, that seems a bit extreme given Soderbergh’s general penchant for slicing his running times down to the nub.

  21. If you reread my post, I wasn’t complaining that the movie is “gay”, I was complaining that it is not gay enough Jeff given the setup.

    So Tatum’s real life dream is to be a furniture designer, eh?

  22. Thank you moviesquad the hetero-sexualization of the subject matter means there’s really nothing there for me.

  23. 110 minutes would be considered trim fighting weight for anything but an animated film. His more commercial films tend to run a bit longer. Ocean’s 13 was 114 minutes. The Informant! was 108. He doesn’t cut just for the sake of cutting.

    And everyone saying that they’re not interested in this but it has nothing to do with being homophobic…sorry, that sounds exactly like someone who drops “I’m not a racist, but…” right before they make a monkey joke. I don’t buy it. You guys are talking like Southern Baptists. I got “Just not interested” the last time I tried to convince my fundie friend to watch The Last Temptation of Christ with me. It’s what someone’s old parents say when they’re disgusted to the core but want to be polite.

    A film lover doesn’t care what a film is about, they just care that it’s GOOD.

    Jeff, you go on spreading the word. If you loved it, screw the fucktards. It’s their loss.

  24. But Ponderer, no one said that. No one. So where the heck are you getting that from? Scroll back through the thread.

    We said IT IS NOT GAY ENOUGH given the subject matter. This would be a much more interesting movie if it was about gay male strippers who put on a heterosexual act for the ladies to make their living.

  25. moviesquad, I think he’s referencing me.

    And everyone saying that they’re not interested in this but it has nothing to do with being homophobic…sorry, that sounds exactly like someone who drops “I’m not a racist, but…” right before they make a monkey joke. I don’t buy it.

    Assume much, Ponderer? You don’t have to buy it. Some people don’t want to see a Western. Some people don’t like movies with swords and dragons. It’s a preference.

    It just looks obvious and kind of dated to me. Are male strippers still wearing fake cuffs and collars?

    Also, I didn’t say Soderbergh cuts just for the sake of cutting, but he does like to keep things as slim as possible (listen to his commentary with Lem Dobbs on “The Limey”). “Contagion,” a multi-character, multi-continent disaster movie ran 106 min.

    110 minutes would be considered trim fighting weight for anything but an animated film

    Considered by whom? I think no comedy should be longer than 100 minutes.

  26. I’d go to this, if I had more money to blow on going to the movies than I actually have. A big draw for me would be McConaughey – his THE LAW SAYS YOU CAN’T TOUCH line in the trailer is pure gold. Magic Mike has an advantage, though, in the sense than everybody goes to a movie about strippers with radically diminished expectations. Professional stripping, either male or female, is a weird, garish, pathologically unerotic spectacle that doesn’t lend itself to great drama – there will probably never be a ROCKY of stripper films (Just a man and his will to survive…and his diamond-studded G-string.) So I’d be slightly reluctant to go on the basis that it could be the CITIZEN KANE of stripper films for all I know, but that still wouldn’t put it too high on the totem pole of non-stripper films.

  27. I’ll see this tomorrow inspite of the fact that Soderbergh’s “super smart” frames consistently come together as some of the most boring movies I’ve seen.

  28. “Off topic, but seriously, someone needs to look into the performance of this site. Has it been intermittently dragging for everyone else?”

    A little bit for me, yeah. I think there is something funky with the ads.

  29. I am getting a distinct vibe from people, a “but I thought you were straight?” reaction from those that I’ve told that I want to see this film. I’m going anyways, but I’m not going to judge those who aren’t willing to risk being labelled. It’s a real factor, even here in worldly Washington DC. And in most of the rest of the country? In a Red State? Uhhhh…

  30. I’ve never understood the appeal of male strippers. The only way I could see someone enjoying one of those shows is if they’re drunk or stoned. Am I the only heterosexual female who isn’t turned on in the slightest by that nonsense?

    I might have considered seeing this if it was more like The Full Monty. Since it’s The Channing Tatum story, however, I think I’ll pass. Also, I can’t stand Matthew McConaughey.

  31. “This would be a much more interesting movie if it was about gay male strippers who put on a heterosexual act for the ladies to make their living.”

    Have any of you guys actually known any male strippers? I’m not being trying to be contentious here… just asking?

    The idea of men stripping in front of a bunch of heterosexual women doesn’t strike me personally as being inherently “gay”, largely because of the whole, you know, WOMEN component. Now, if it were men stripping for men, that would be a different story… but it’s not, and even then I wouldn’t necessary assume all or even most of them are gay either. People do crazy, out of character, stuff for money all the time.

    It just seems to me like assuming they’re gay is a real easy (mis)conception to jump to, and one that seems rooted in your own subjective view of them. It’s really not much different than assuming most female strippers are lesbians… and we all know that’s a bunch of BS.

  32. “This would be a much more interesting movie if it was about gay male strippers who put on a heterosexual act for the ladies to make their living.”

    Have any of you guys actually known any male strippers? I’m not being trying to be contentious here… just asking?

    The idea of men stripping in front of a bunch of heterosexual women doesn’t strike me personally as being inherently “gay”, largely because of the whole, you know, WOMEN component. Now, if it were men stripping for men, that would be a different story… but it’s not, and even then I wouldn’t necessary assume all or even most of them are gay either. People do crazy, out of character, stuff for money all the time.

    It just seems to me like assuming they’re gay is a real easy (mis)conception to jump to, and one that seems rooted in your own subjective view of them. It’s really not much different than assuming most female strippers are lesbians… and we all know that’s a bunch of BS.

  33. The idea of men stripping in front of a bunch of heterosexual women doesn’t strike me personally as being inherently “gay”, largely because of the whole, you know, WOMEN component.

    Exactly like double vaginal penetration.

  34. “It’s a preference.”

    Sorry, no. Nobody dislikes something just for no reason. Preferences are just codified sets of personal prejudices. And frankly, I think it’s a fairly recent invention. When schools presented a list of required reading, they didn’t go around asking, well, read what you think you would enjoy. They gave a diverse set of reading matter and expected you to decide if it was good or not AFTER you had read it. “What, another Dumas? I’m really not into that swashbuckling shit.”

    Yes, Soderbergh likes to keep it trim. But that’s all relative, and he’s had lots of films around the 120 minute mark these days. (His peak of that came during Solaris, where he had cut the film down to almost 70 minutes, and Cameron had to pull him back because he’d started cutting into the bones of the thing.)

    “I think no comedy should be longer than 100 minutes.”

    Too bad – you’ll miss many of the great comedies. Tootsie, Something About Mary, Some Like It Hot, Young Frankenstein, Ghostbusters,The Great Dictator, Big Lebowski, The Gold Rush, on and on. That’s not to say that many of the great comedies aren’t trim and compact (Dr. Strangelove, Airplane, Life of Brian), but there’s so many ones that wind up around the two-hour mark that it makes no sense to make a rule about it.

    (Unless, of course, you’re talking about It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World, which is like having teeth pulled.)

  35. The theme of “men who refuse to grow up because they are having to much fun hanging out in bars and hooking up with random women, but then are eventually convinced to do so by a good woman” is a popular one these days. I bet a lot of men would enjoy this film. But put a bunch of shirtless male dancers in the story, and on the poster, and in the trailers … well, how many do you really expect to give it a chance in the first place?

  36. Straight fan of Soderbergh, and I’m in the want-to-see-MAGIC MIKE camp. But I’m calling bullshit on Jeff’s response to the enthusiasm deficit here, for this reason:

    “My initial inclination regarding Humpday, a Sundance Dramatic Compettion movie about two 30something buddies who decide to fuck each other on camera as a kind of amateur-porn Zack and Miri art project, was to shine it. Any and all movies involving the spreading of male butt cheeks generally gets a pass from me. (And I don’t want to hear any homophobic dings about this. Saying “later” to the watching of gay boning in Park City isn’t quite the same thing as putting it down or condemning it, God forbid.)”
    http://hollywood-elsewhere.com/2009/01/humpday_fence-s.php

  37. “Too bad – you’ll miss many of the great comedies. Tootsie, Something About Mary, Some Like It Hot, Young Frankenstein, Ghostbusters,The Great Dictator, Big Lebowski, The Gold Rush, on and on.”

    Come on, Ghostbusters and Young Frankenstein were each about 100 minutes long (minus end credits) and The Gold Rush is even less than that. Also, There’s Something About Mary, The Big Lebowski and The Great Dictator all would have been better had some of the fat been trimmed. So, that leaves Tootsie and Some Like It Hot — TWO movies.

    McGee is right, no more of this bloated, two-hour Bridesmaids garbage.

  38. It’s not fair to include end credits since all films have credits somewhere. If 100 minutes is the baseline, then that’s the baseline. And I couldn’t disagree more about Mary and The Great Dictator.

    (And didn’t they put out an extended cut of Mary? I thought the original was pretty lean. And if anyone suggests that cutting Jonathan Richman’s stuff would have condensed, I will personally hunt you down and feed you to wolverines.)

  39. Sorry, no. Nobody dislikes something just for no reason. Preferences are just codified sets of personal prejudices.

    I actually offered two reasons for my lack of interest in Magic Mike: it looks obvious and it looks dated. Do with that assessment what you will.

    I also didn’t say I wouldn’t see a comedy that’s longer than 100 minutes, I just appreciate it when comedic filmmakers keep it short — and, honestly, 90 minutes is closer to the plate. There are exceptions — Withnail and Animal House and, yes, Tootsie and Some Like it Hot — but there’s something to be said for a comedy that leaves you wanting more.

  40. Jeff is actually spot-on with his assessment of this film. Saw it earlier this week.

    I was immediately impressed with the tone Soderbergh strikes and the natural performances by the cast. Not what I expected, given the subject matter. In lesser hands this would be a commercial fluff piece with moronic characters and the standard love story but Soderbergh keeps things grounded in reality and the script avoids the usual predictable beats.

    Channing Tatum and Cody Horn are terrific and McConaughey delivers another solid performance following his turn in “Bernie.”

    Oh — and loved the use of the old Warner Bros. logo from the 70s, despite this not being a period piece.

  41. “I actually offered two reasons for my lack of interest in Magic Mike: it looks obvious and it looks dated. Do with that assessment what you will.”

    1) Are you letting the trailers inform you about what a film is? Because I think you’re smarter than that. And honestly, if there’s any filmmaker whose trailers lie most often, it’s Soderbergh’s.

    2) I have no idea if it’s dated or not, but if it’s true that these are about Tatum’s experiences, I would assume that this is a fairly accurate depiction of the recent scene. (I did take a look at the Chippendale’s homepage, and the bow ties and cuffs were prominently in evidence, though there seemed to be more piercings than on the famous Patrick Swayze/Chris Farley display…)

    On the time thing – agree with your general assessment. I just hate having hard and fast rules. The best comedies do tend to be shorter (and I think a farce should burn by at lightning speed), but in the end, everything should find its own groove and rhythm, y’know?

  42. Bottom line, it’s not a movie I want to see. If that makes me homophobic in your estimation, so be it. I could say “Weekend” moved me to tears more than once, but you’d probably read that like, “Some of my best friends are black.”

    So you don’t like hard fast rules, but at the same time you claim, “Nobody dislikes something just for no reason” ?

  43. bents75 — i’ve known a lot of male strippers…i booked acts into clubs in hollywood and palm springs for several years and the male strippers we hired were both straight and gay…the straight ones worked the gays and the gay ones worked the women who came in because gay clubs are (for the most part) safer, cheaper and more fun….it was a job…granted, a bit more sordid than soderbergh’s sanitized version (and, don’t take that as a diss…i really liked soderbergh’s film)….
    fwiw — the premiere party for the 1981 male stripper movie ‘for ladies only’ was held at chippendale’s in venice and, even back then, half the strippers in that review were gay….

  44. “Nobody dislikes something just for no reason.”

    That’s not a rule. It’s just a fact. Like, y’know, gravity.

    And there’s no need to get hissy. I gave you credit for being able to see past a trailer. You asked some straight-up questions about whether something was dated, and I did a little bit of research for you. I saw part of your point on the length thing and said so. Let’s turn down the volume, huh? I don’t agree with you, but you clarified your thoughts, we had a decent discussion, and I’m cool with it if you are. Shake hands and live to debate again.

  45. TEAM WELLS ALL THE WAY. HUGE love for Soderbergh, guy’s a genius, he makes one masterpiece after another. Anyone who disses the brilliance of The Informant! is a fucking idiot who doesn’t deserve to discuss film. Not surprised to read this review from Wells (and from others) as if there was ever a filmmaker to tackle male-stripping, it’d be the ‘bergh. His versatility as a filmmaker is unmatched (Michael Winterbottom, maybe…?) and his willingness to tackle every genre is admirable and exciting. If this is a success, he’ll likely have two films on my best of the year list, as Haywire was as perfect as smart action filmmaking gets.

    Oh, and the level of homophobia on this site is disturbing and disheartening. ‘Cause, you know, we’re all gonna turn gay for going to see Magic Mike! Bunch of losers.

  46. Nah, Ponderer, I wasn’t trying to be pissy. Just debating some points, posing some questions. You have taken my dry argument style for anger, which I assure you it is not. That’s my posting-while-doing-three-other-things-at-work mode. Cheers.

  47. Man if Soderbergh could ever direct an Aaron Sorkin script produced by Scott Rudin where George Clooney, Robert Redford and Warren Beatty stand at podiums and just deliver liberal T-points for 133 minutes shot in 1.85, Wells would blow a load at the screen like that one that pinned Anna Faris to the ceiling in Scary Movie.

  48. God, Kit (Lex), your smack is so on tap and truthful! Witty, insightful, blisteringly savvy about our host’s cinematic predilections….and more dated than the retro WB logo Soderbergh tacks on to the beginning of Magic Mike. You’ve banged this gong so many times (that Wells prefers the low-key, Redford-and-Beatty-and-Pakula, “evade the fuzz and keep it real,” ’70s style aesthetic) that repetition alone has dulled whatever wisdom it once sounded.

    In fact, here are some other “LexG classics” I’d do well never to read ever again:

    -KStew obsession
    -Obsession with any starlets aged twenty-five and under
    -How you’ll never have sex again, and how young white women are especially out of the question
    -References to your hardscrabble, Robert Loggia-and-Margo Martindale-style parents
    -References to Pittsburgh period (and yes, that includes anything Striking Distance related)
    -Why 2.39:1 is amazing and anything else is the “Hackspect ratio”
    -Movie theaters you hate going to, but still put up with
    -Why you never want to go on vacation
    -Anything Chinese Wizard-related
    -Any of your rants decrying any film fan who takes their HD home theater setup seriously

    Glad you figured out how to change your name here. Maybe change your shtick, too. I’m told stand-up comics (even the wannabe ones) do that from time to time.

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    “Nobody dislikes something just for no reason.”

    That’s not a rule. It’s just a fact. Like, y’know, gravity.

    And there’s no need to get hissy. I gave you credit for being able to see past a trailer. You asked some straight-up questions about whether something was dated, and I did a little bit of research for you. I saw part of your point on the length thing and said so. Let’s turn down the volume, huh? I don’t agree with you, but you clarified your thoughts, we had a decent discussion, and I’m cool with it if you are. Shake hands and live to debate again.

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