Last night I was lucky to get free tickets to the Vancouver premier of Magic Mike, starring Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey. My expectations of the male stripper movie were by far surpassed by the levels this film reached in its sometimes dark yet comedic portrayal of the exotic dancer lifestyle.
The film opened with an oiled, tanned, and waxed Matthew McConaughey – playing Dallas, the snake-loving, self-obsessed, retired stripper turned night club owner – riling a room of Tampa women. Our first glimpse of McConaughey is cringe-worthy. Somehow one of the sexiest men in Hollywood has transformed into a slimy exhibitionist who provides the same ick-factor as seeing your father in his underwear. Provided he is ripped, his greasy mop of hair and barely-there low rise leather chaps offer more comedy than sex appeal.
It is star Channing Tatum who brings most of the appeal, sex or otherwise, in this film. My feelings toward Tatum coming into this film were bland – just like his previous roles. He is an actor, who without the right script and character, comes off as monotone, dull, and just a pretty face. Whether it is the resemblance this film has to his early life as a male stripper, or the physicality of his role, Tatum fits in the role of Magic Mike as snug as the g-string he wears periodically throughout the film. It is clear he has the background of a dancer as he completely overshadows the moves of his group, the Cock Rockers, filled out by actors Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, Adam Rodriguez, Kevin Nash, and Alex Pettyfer.
Magic Mike’s protegé Adam, played by Pettyfer, is at first a love-able kid with the naivety of a boy who has never seen a pair of breasts. To make quick money, Adam joins the Cock Rockers after meeting Mike at a roofing job. His youthfulness appeals to Dallas and he soon climbs the ranks to become one of the star strippers. After only a few months in the group, Adam has lost the love-ability that hooked us in the start, turning into sex on a pretty stick.
But the movie is much more than the sex it sells. Artfully directed by Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s Eleven) and written by Reid Carolin (Stop Loss), the film speaks more about the highs and lows of living in the fast life. What at first seems like a harmless and fun environment, is revealed as a dangerous escape into the grip of drugs, money, and women. As the subject matter gets darker, so does the direction, sometimes leading the film into a trance-like, strobe-lit dream.
It is a deeper and more thoughtful film than I expected. Yes, it is a good time, and yes, at points the theatre was hollering like there wasn’t a screen between us and the stage. By far it was Channing Tatum’s best performance of his career and a game changer for usually conservative McConaughey. The only thing this film was missing was a strong female character – and 3D. (Obviously kidding about that last part).