Channing Tatum came close to being an also-ran, but this year turned him into a star. Between The Vow, 21 Jump Street and Magic Mike, he went from being a lunkhead into a likeable lunkhead. He got the joke. Magic Mike was directed by Steven Soderbergh, and the story was that Soderbergh was so intrigued by Tatum’s life as a male stripper, he saw potential for a movie there. He was right, there is a good movie in his story, and Magic Mike was one of the best mainstream films of the summer. Our review of the Blu-ray follows after the jump.
Tatum plays the titular Mike, who begins the film working construction for non-union wages. One of the new hires is Adam (Alex Pettyfer), and Mike has to guide the boy on the job, but Adam’s hot tempered and gets fired at the end of the day. Adam lives with his sister Brooke (Cody Horn), and when he’s the third wheel on one of her dates, he wanders off and runs into Mike, who gets him into a good bar even though he’s underdressed and underage. At the bar Mike says that Adam will keep his worth if he can talk to some ladies at the bar, and Adam pulls it off. When Mike comes in to close he offers the ladies a flyer for the Xquisite Strip Club, where he’ll be performing. They agree to come if Adam will be there, so Mike drags the kid along, who is originally told to just help the strippers backstage. But when Tarzan (Kevin Nash) crashes out, Adam – quickly nicknamed “The Kid” – is thrust on stage. Though he’s got no real dance moves, he’s a star.
Quickly The Kid becomes a part of Xquisite group, with owner Dallas (Matthew McConaughey) becoming another mentor in the ways of the male stripper dance. It’s all about the pelvis, all about the thrust. Mike bounces around women, including Joanna (Olivia Munn, who – yes – has a topless scene) who’s someone who likes to throw another girl in the mix for fun, but Mike has a thing for Brooke. As The Kid grows more comfortable at the job, the risks of the business become apparent, including drugs, and a vampire life. Mike wants to move into making furniture, and he wants to get a business loan, but cash is never seen by banks as something solid to get behind, and Dallas – who seems to promise to help – has no real interest in helping. Mike sees stripping as a means to an end, but he also sees that it has no future. But how long can he do it without eventually forgetting his real dreams?
Magic Mike exploded like a hunky fireman calendar when it hit theaters, and that’s probably because there haven’t been a lot of films that have so brazenly sold men stripping. Often films about stripping are for the male gaze, and like the difference between male and female strip clubs, women tend to get more excitable, where films about females stripping have done better on home video – which makes sense when you think about it. But more than that, Soderbergh crafted a solid genre exercise, and this coming of age film has a very familiar formula, which pits three generations together to show how Mike became Mike. Dallas is the old cynic, the person Mike could end up as, while The Kid represents partly how he got into the business, and partly the mindset of someone who could keep doing this until he’s past his prime. Soderbergh shows this deftly.
He also realizes this is a musical in its way, and so there’s a number of spectacular dance numbers, all of which highlight that Tatum has got the moves. Though he appeared in the first two Step Up movies, Tatum isn’t known as a dancer, but he’s got a spectacular sense of coordination, and when he gets a spotlight, he proves it. This is also a great role for Tatum, and it showcases his talents in a way that never feels pushy. He’s smooth but sensitive, and he understands he has to work against his good looks to show that he’s got heart. Also shockingly good in this is Cody Horn, a relative newcomer (though no stranger to the business, as her father Alan Horn used to run Warner Brothers and now runs Disney) who plays very naturally on screen.
But more than anything, Soderbergh knows how to work with actors, and/or play with their limitations. Olivia Munn is fine in this, and Alex Pettyfer is perfectly cast as an arrogant young know-it-all. If there’s a bad thing about the movie (and there really isn’t) is that Magic Mike is more of a three star, “really good for what it is” movie, more than a film that transcends its genre to become truly great. It’s the sort of film that’s easy to watch and well made, and that’s a great thing. But it’s not a great movie.
Warner Brothers presents the film in widescreen (2.35:1) and in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Shot digitally, the presentation on Blu-ray is perfect for what it is, and it’s a great transfer. It seems no one thought the movie would be the hit it became, as the supplements are pathetic. There’s a backstage piece (7 min.) that serves as the making of, and gets quotes from the movie’s stars about making it. You can watch the dance numbers all together in “Dance play mode” (19 min.) but that’s just excerpts from the movie (though I’m sure they’ll play on a loop at some parties and gay bars for years to come), and three extended dance numbers (9 min.) that highlight the supporting strippers. Not much here. The Blu-ray comes in a combo pack which also includes a DVD and digital copy.