"Steven Soderbergh and Channing Tatum: together at last." That's what we're sure you were thinking when you saw the trailer for "Magic Mike," a tale of seasoned Tampa stripper who shows a young buck the ropes. It's an abs, schlong and dance fest that also features "I Am Number Four" star Alex Pettyfer (as stripper ingenue Adam), "True Blood" werewolf Joe Manganiello as "Big Dick" Richie, and Matthew McConaughey in the role he was born for, smarmy leather-cowboy Dallas, club Xquisite's manager.
What we were thinking, however, was how will "Magic Mike" measure up to another long-beloved stripper story, "The Full Monty" (starring Robert Carlyle, Tom Wilkinson and Mark Addy) -- the hard-knocks comedy about unemployed British steelworkers who lose their shirts (financially speaking) and decide to take the rest of it off to make the cash they need to survive a down economy?
When women are in the mood for male strippers, what they're craving, to be frank, is beefcake. Hard, muscled bodies glistening with dirty, dirty dancing sweat.
"The Full Monty": More like poundcake or string cheese, this film's down-and-out-of-shape middle-aged dance crew has the saggy physique and receding hairline of real steelworkers, not the kind ladies ogle on a Chippendales stage.
"Magic Mike": "Oh looord, it's gettin' hot up in this theater!" is what women won't be able to stop saying, or thinking, when they see Channing Tatum and "True Blood"'s were-Adonis groove and gyrate.
Advantage: Duh! "Magic Mike," of course.
Costumes, choreography, staging ... lasses love a song-and-dance spectacle, especially even it involves sexy man buns (as opposed to slovenly plumber crack).
"The Full Monty": The novice strippers ultimately manage to overcome their clumsiness and deliver a men-in-blue routine that playfully riffs on Joe Cocker's "You Can Leave Your Hat On."
"Magic Mike": Cops, boxers, dream dolls, cowboys, firemen, dancers, soldiers in trenches thrusting to "It's Raining Men" ... Xquisite has all its female fantasy bases covered and pulls out all stops to hit a strip-club home run. (Home plate is reached is when a stripper dry humps a gleefully screaming female on stage.)
Advantage: "Magic Mike" wins again.
Yes, that's right, we said penis pumps. Men, you know what we're talking about. Don't pretend you don't.
"The Full Monty": What's worse than a penis pump that won't work? Having to dial the manufacturer from a public phone booth and tell them about it, which is exactly what Horse has to do when his pump doesn't seem to, well, make a difference ...
"Magic Mike": Adam has a hard time concentrating on backstage chit-chat with the other dancers. Maybe it's because Big Dick's (aka Richie's) pump -- penis included -- is whooshing away inches from his face.
Advantage: Pumps were present (though not in use) in both films, so we'll call this one a draw.
Speaking of penises ... we might as well talk about the elephant in the room, i.e., the elephant-sized appendage.
"The Full Monty": By nickname alone, we assume Horse is well hung; but Lomper, judging by the jaws dropped when he drops his drawers, trumps him by more than a few inches.
"Magic Mike": Big Dick. The name says it all. And what it doesn't say, we glimpse in a nude stage silhouette of Richie's manhood dangling for all to see. (BTW, ladies if you're wondering if Joe Manganiello used a dick double, he's not denying or confirming. As he told "The New York Post," "I'm reveling in the curiosity.")
Advantage: Seeing (or at least almost seeing) is believing, so this point goes to "Magic Mike."
"The Full Monty": Horse's "Funky Chicken" James Brown impression deserves applause, as does the aforementioned "You Can Leave Your Hat On" number.
"Magic Mike": Damn, that Channing Tatum can dance! Which is really no surprise since the movie was based on the few months of his teenhood he spent as a Tampa stripper. And don't forget, the dance-off flick "Step Up" launched his Hollywood career. Still ... he undoubtedly knows how to set a dance stage on fire. And the rest of the "Magic Mike" actors show their "stick it" skillz too, even if it gets a little icky when Dallas grinds behind Adam in a midriff and short-shorts as he teaches him the basics.
Advantage: "Magic Mike" trounces Full Monty in this dance-off.
"The Full Monty": Girls, money, fame -- why would aging, out-of-work steelworkers resort to stripping? There's the obvious reason, the cash. It's their last-resort bailout plan, so to speak, so that they can keep their homes, food on the table and, in Gaz's desperate case, custody of his son. But then there's also the dilemma plaguing Dave, a "fat bastard" who wants to rekindle the romance in his marriage and reclaim his sexual self-esteem.
"Magic Mike": Mike may enjoy the girls, money and fame, but his true cause is custom furniture, and his dream of making his art a successful business.
Advantage: Custom furniture or custody of your child ... clearly "The Full Monty"'s motives are far more noble all around.
Show us the goods! That's what we paid our $9 for, right?
"The Full Monty": It doesn't get more revealing than the full monty, i.e., full frontal nudity for us non-Brits. Alas, it's only implied in this R-rated sausage-fest. The guys do get chesty and cheeky (as in bare bum) in the grand finale.
"Magic Mike": Xquisite's male revue gives gals unobstructed views from behind and quite the crotch silhouettes from the front, thanks to junk-hugging G-strings. But as far as we can tell, we never get the full monty.
Advantage: Though "The Full Monty" suggests that it shows all, if we tally naked body shots, "Magic Mike" has far more (and better quality bodies). So ... we're calling this category a tie.
What would a stripper tale be without true love?
"The Full Monty": When Dave bares all, he gains self-respect and finally accepts the unconditional adoration of a wife, proud of her sexy "big man."
"Magic Mike": After wearing her down with his boyish wit and the good guy lurking beneath his G-string, Mike finally wins the heart of Adam's down-to-earth sister, Brooke, bidding adieu to his threesome past.
Advantage: The greatest love of all is the self-love inside Dave and the love of a wife that accepts him, hairy beer belly and all. Point to "The Full Monty."
"The Full Monty": "The Full Monty"'s average-Joe strippers risk everything: their reputation, their dignity, their wives. And after they're busted by the cops for indecent exposure during a rehearsal, their worst fears materialize and they become the laughingstocks of their town.
"Magic Mike": What do Big Dick and the rest risk? Being mauled by lustful lady fans? Pummeled by jealous husbands, perhaps?
Advantage: "The Full Monty" shows and risks all.
AND THE WINNER IS ...
It's close, but "Magic Mike" triumphs by a mere point (6 to 5). So, if you're in the mood for a raunchy, rollicking, stripper good time (with a bit of heart), this movie's your man (or man fest). If heart weighs more heavily on your movie scale than sex appeal, than you just might prefer staying home and mooning over steelworkers as they try to tug baggy rugby shirts over their flabby guts.
Photos courtesy 20th Century Fox / Everett Collection and Warner Bros.