TBTS Reviews: Magic Mike – Lap Dances, Male Bonding, and Channing Tatum’s Bare Ass
The long-awaited male stripper flick Magic Mike finally hit theaters this weekend, and it did not disappoint. Starring Channing Tatum and a whole crew of fine-looking young men, Magic Mike tells the story of Mike Lane (Tatum), a 30-year-old male stripper who is struggling to find his way out of the business so he can focus on his true passion: crafting custom furniture. He encounters a young, lost soul (“The Kid,” played by Alex Pettyfer) and takes him under his wing. The movie focuses on Alex’s embrace of the lifestyle that Mike is slowly relinquishing, and the effects this has on both of them.
Magic Mike is loosely based on Tatum’s time as a male stripper in Florida, and rumor has it that he actually had a lot of involvement with the script to make the story more authentic. Tatum claims that the story is entirely fictional, though the drug use, casual sex, and party lifestyle are real. The movie certainly feels authentic, with some scenes seemingly ad-libbed to great effect. Overall, the movie is fun but not campy, and actually tells a pretty compelling story. Spoilers below.
The film opens with Mike crawling out of bed on a beautiful, sunny morning, giving the audience a nice, lingering look at his bare ass (which we’re quite fond of here at the Tweed). It’s established early on that he and Olivia Munn have a casual sexual relationship, often involving threesomes with random women that they meet. He makes his way to a construction site where he meets Adam (“The Kid”), who is apparently skill-less and was hired as a day laborer by the cheapskate foreman. Mike gives Adam a ride home when Adam’s car breaks down, and we see that Adam is sleeping on his sister’s couch while he’s figuring out what to do with his life. Later that evening, Adam runs into Mike at a club, and Mike introduces Adam to the world of male stripping. Adam takes to the lifestyle quickly, much to his sister’s chagrin, and Mike promises to watch out for him. Adam soon outgrows Mike, though, becoming partners with the club’s DJ in a not-very-well-thought-out drug trafficking scheme. Mike disapproves, shit gets out of hand, and Mike decides he’s had enough of this life.
The story is not exactly original — young man finds himself in a job he thought would be temporary while he makes plans for something more, those plans are thwarted, he has to come to terms with that and forge a new path ahead, making mistakes along the way. Mike sees himself as an entrepreneur, not just a dancer. He strips, he works construction, he runs a mobile detailing business, but most importantly to him, he makes custom furniture. He’s been saving for the past six years to fund that dream, but can’t seem to find a bank that will give him the starter loan he needs to get going. The owner of the club where he works, Dallas (played by Matthew McConaughey), plans to expand to Miami, and Mike is going to be his business partner. With Dallas’s sudden but inevitable betrayal, Mike realizes that he’s just been biding his time as a dancer, and things will never change for him unless he makes it happen himself.
Much of the film’s first act is devoted to the dancing. There is scene after scene after scene of all the boys doing their thing. Twelve full-length dance routines were filmed, though in the end you only see snippets of each. Once it’s well-established that these guys can move, and that there is a hardcore audience for their performances, the movie shifts focus to Mike’s efforts to better himself and get out of this lifestyle. Part of that involves taking The Kid under his wing. Mike introduces him to the life and tries to act as a voice of reason and wisdom, though Adam can’t hear it at the time. He’s 19, and to him it’s all women, money, and a good time. You can see Adam blazing down a self-destructive path, and as much as Mike tries to stop him, it’s all for naught. Adam’s sister, Brooke, says at one point, “Adam was always going to do what Adam was going to do.” Once Mike realizes that Adam is beyond his influence, and that Dallas has turned his back on him, he has no more reason to stay.
Although the story is ultimately meant to be fun, the dialogue is actually quite serious and convincing. The actors all talk the way you would imagine male strippers would talk to one another, with lots of comradery and shenanigans between them. And during a climactic fight scene between Mike and Brooke, you can tell that Tatum is going off script. He trips over his own words, he struggles to find the right things to say, and it feels strangely and uncomfortably like watching a couple argue in real life.
It all comes to a head as Mike realizes three important truths about his life: 1) he is easily replaced, as Dallas and Adam’s actions show him; 2) he has no real relationship with anyone, as he realizes when his friend-with-benefits stops returning his phone calls and he finds out she’s engaged; and 3) for all his efforts, his life plan is a bust and he has to figure something else out. He walks out of the club and the lifestyle, and he turns to Brooke, hoping she can help him find his way.
I don’t know what the producers and director wanted out of Magic Mike, but I think they succeeded across the board. Fun ladies night movie? Check. Film to showcase some sweet, shirtless dance moves? Check. Another project to show that Channing Tatum can, in fact, act? Check. It’s an interesting story, and a fun time, and I think that’s all it ever wanted to be.