“Magic Mike,” a movie about male strippers set in Tampa, Fla., has artful pretensions. Directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring Channing Tatum as the titular stripper and Joe Manganiello as Big Dick Richie, “Magic Mike” struts the line between comedy and drama, while tastefully grinding its pelvis in the face of the viewer.
When we first meet Mike (Tatum), he’s on his way to a construction site. But he’s as much a construction worker as David Hodo of the Village People. At the site he recruits The Kid (Alex Pettyfer) as the latest member of his strip troupe. He lures The Kid to a club filled with available young women, then uses him as bait for potential g-string stuffers.
Once at the strip club, however, everything changes. After a brief locker-room initiation (not as erotic as it sounds), The Kid finds himself working for club owner and troupe leader Dallas (Matthew McConaughey at his sleaziest), doing odd jobs (none preceded by hand or blow). In a “42nd Street”-style turn of events, The Kid gets his big break and wows the crowd of horny suburban domestic goddesses.
But there are complications. The Kid’s protective (and responsible) older sister Paige (Cody Horn) doesn’t approve of Mike or her brother’s new career. And Mike finds himself hopelessly attracted to Paige, although he never manages to say the right things to her. The Kid gets tangled up in a drug-dealing intrigue. Dallas makes big plans to relocate the club to Miami, but some of the dancers’ questionable behavior threatens the move.
The worst thing that can be said about “Magic Mike,” aside from the fact that it is lacking in magic, is that for a movie about male strippers, it’s shockingly unsexy. Tatum is a first-rate dancer, and he’s a joy to gaze upon, but his acting skills leave something to be desired. As for McConaughey, it’s a wonder there’s any scenery left after he’s on screen. With the exception of Pettyfer, Horn and Olivia Munn (as Mike’s bi-gal-pal Joanna), the rest of the cast, including the gorgeous and newly out actor Matt Bomer, aren’t given enough to do.