anyone planning to see Magic Mike should consider bringing a few extra dollar bills to the theater. It may be tempting to toss a few at the chiseled strippers bumping and grinding on the screen.
Magic Mike is about men dancing suggestively for women who complete the fantasy in their heads and possibly elsewhere. It's a dirty-minded job, but somebody has to do it. It's also a risky idea for a movie, given the spotty track record of films dealing so frankly with sex as pop entertainment.
Show no regard for taste or execution and you make another Showgirls. Hit all the right notes of hedonism and desperate consequences and the result can be something wonderful like Boogie Nights. Magic Mike is closer in style and quality to the latter, with energetic carnality and people exposed in more ways than one.
Magic Mike is set and partially filmed in Tampa, where its star Channing Tatum spent several months dancing in a male revue at age 19. His input lends authenticity to Reid Carolin's screenplay, populated with colorful characters making ends meet by flashing their rear ends. The dance routines are hot, sweaty and ridiculously staged with costumed choreography that most revues could never afford. The movie may be as much of a fantasy for exotic dancers as the dancers themselves for customers.
Tatum is athletic and alluring as Mike Lane, star attraction of the Kings of Tampa dance crew. Mike makes good money and beds any woman he wants, occasionally two at a time. This isn't all he does with his life, which makes him more interesting. Mike also works at multiple day jobs, stashing cash for his goal of owning a business building custom furniture.
At one job site Mike meets Adam a.k.a."The Kid" (Alex Pettyfer), and introduces him to Xquisite, a male revue nightclub run by drawling satyr Dallas Rising, a spectacular role for Matthew McConaughey, played to the silky hilt. The Kid finds a family at Xquisite, muscular men who haven't grown up, pranking each other when they aren't basking in the feminine fruits of their labors.
Dallas has his own dream, of opening a bigger club in Miami, always keeping cobra eyes on the prize. Whether seducing an audience as emcee, teaching The Kid the art of pelvic thrusts, or dressed as Uncle Sam for a bawdy Fourth of July tribute, McConaughey is thoroughly committed to Dallas' laser focus on what sells about sex. It's an astonishing performance, so in tune with the wild man McConaughey is reported to be — he even pounds a conga drum — that it feels like a confessional.
Soderbergh keeps the debauchery amusing and energetic, so it's a minor letdown when the plot eventually requires some conventional conflict to resolve. That doesn't take anything away from the audacity of this project. Even when Magic Mike is skimpier than a g-string it soars on daring, as if Soderbergh asked himself who could possibly make a good movie from such offbeat material, answered "I can," and did.
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365.