Before you go writing off "Magic Mike" as being a one-note, gimmicky movie about handsome male strippers, you should know that director Steven Soderbergh has inserted some genuine complexity and non-superficial intrigue into the story. Yes, it is loosely based on star Channing Tatum's real-life stripper past, and, yes, the cast is basically comprised of a bunch of sinewy studs, but judging from the critical reception and certified "Fresh" rating over at Rotten Tomatoes, there is much more to "Magic Mike" than just a bunch of man candy. Get those dollar bills ready as we roll through the reviews:
"The hip-pumping studs who work at the Xquisite dance club know a thing or two about making the ladies scream in delight. But nobody works the crowd like Magic Mike (a terrific Channing Tatum), the gyrating main attraction in Steven Soderbergh's funny, enjoyable romp about male strippers and the American dream. ... What happens will be familiar if you've ever seen one of those variations on the fallen-woman movie. An elastic genre popular in the 1920s and '30s, these flicks usually involve a working-class young miss who comically scrambles or crudely tramps her way into a mink, swank digs and finally either tragedy or redemption, depending on whether she's doomed or saved. Sometimes she also initiates an innocent into her life pretty much the same way Mike brings Adam (Alex Pettyfer) into his world of sexual play, casual drug use and dance music. In the past the movies were very much preoccupied with the moral regulation of women, but here the stress is on Mike's struggle to succeed as he juggles his part-time gigs (dancing, auto detailing and construction) with his desire to build custom furniture." — Manohla Dargis, the New York Times
The Stripping and the Stars
"Soderbergh should be commended for creating a commercial-looking film while retaining some of his artier and more independent sensibilities like using cinema verite camerawork for certain scenes. He also should be hailed for getting one of the best performances out of Alex Pettyfer of his relatively short career and having the wherewithal or hiring Cody Horn as one of Mike's love interest regardless of her connections to a former Warner Bros. studio exec. She's really good and she brings out the best in Tatum, giving one of his more well-rounded performances both in terms of drama and humor as their chemistry often keeps the movie interesting. If Tatum is funny in this movie, then Matthew McConaughey is hilarious as the club's owner and MC Dallas, delivering some of the movie's funniest lines and moments. Much of the fun comes from the elaborate strip club routines where all the guys get into the act, although at a certain point, the guys' dance numbers stop doing much to move the story forward and it's being done just to give the ladies in the audience some eye candy. None of the other male actors really get enough screen time to really think much of them beyond being there for their bodies." — Edward Douglas, ComingSoon.net
The Soderbergh Touch
"Like 'The Girlfriend Experience,' Magic Mike doubles as an of-the-moment film about life in a down economy, so much so that it would play like a bait-and-switch if it didn't just as thoroughly deliver as a movie about stripping. As with 'Traffic,' 'Contagion,' 'Oceans 11,' and other films, Soderbergh has a keen interest in how industries — drug trafficking, disease control, casinos — work, and narrowing this film's focus to the club's tiny economy. ... Yet, as usual, Soderbergh's way of filming often trumps what he's filming. Few filmmakers know how to play to the strengths of modern digital cameras as well as Soderbergh, who served as his own DP under his usual nom de camera, 'Peter Andrews.' 'Magic Mike' looks great, and Soderbergh's offhand approach to composition cuts through some of the clichés. Late in the film, as Horn and Pettyfer talk about his downward spiral, he lies flat in the backseat of her car. Soderbergh gets the shot by turning the camera on its side, getting all the disorientation he needs through the simplest means offered by a confined space and a moving vehicle." — Keith Phipps, A.V. Club
The Final Word, Pro-Con-Pro Style
"The film's portrait of self-delusion and gradual awakening makes for compelling viewing, even if it's eventually somewhat undercut by a pop-romance ending that seems undeservedly tidy. Soderbergh may bow to the entertainer side of his split filmmaking personality in that moment — but then again, if you can't send your audience home with a smile in a film that features a group of half-naked dudes using umbrellas as blatant phallic symbols during a performance of 'It's Raining Men,' you're probably doing something wrong." — Ian Buckwalter, NPR
"Watching the dudes work on their dance moves in front of ravenous women exerts a real fascination, though the script never truly examines the motives of strippers or the audiences. Instead, Soderbergh dawdles over Mike's flirtation with The Kid's sister (Cody Horn). Worse, the film develops a virtuous squint that starts tsk-tsking everything that was first shown as a fleshy amusement park. It turns out that the sex, drugs and rock & roll lifestyle is really bad for these guys, especially The Kid. Magic Mike slowly degenerates into a simplistic cautionary fable. I didn't see that coming from a sharp observer like Soderbergh." — Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
"It's no accident that Soderbergh has made both a two-part, four-and-a-half-hour film about Che Guevara and an all-star trilogy of studio pictures about criminals who take down Las Vegas casinos. He's the most devoted anti-capitalist in American cinema, and whether he's taking on strippers or hookers or a worldwide flu epidemic or the international drug trade, you have to see his work in that context. I think 'Magic Mike' is a fascinating film, one of his best in recent years. But it isn't quite as much randy, escapist fun as it looks like on the surface. That's because Soderbergh fears there is no escape for Magic Mike, or any of us, from the permanent Tampa strip club of the mind, where we sit inhaling Buffalo wings and making it rain all over the latest naked offering." — Andrew O'Hehir, Salon
Check out everything we've got on "Magic Mike."
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