Basic Plot: Michael "Magic Mike" Lane (Channing Tatum) is a male stripper saving up money to start an honest custom furniture business. However, he first has to deal his overzealous boss Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), a new protege Adam (Alex Pettyfer), Adam's sister Brooke (Cody Horn) who he begins to fall for, and the drugs and dangers of the male stripper lifestyle.
Shitty trailer, male strippers, and Channing Tatum. I really didn't think I was going to see this movie. However, my sister managed to convince me. I thought it was strange that someone who knew me well would think this movie would be my cup of tea, but then I saw the actual film.
It's really good.
The biggest surprise is that it doesn't glamorize the heavy-partying, easy-money, YOLO stripper culture at all. This is also its biggest strength, as the film feels more like a serious documentary about male strippers and this tone works well. If people wanted to see a silly, exploitative film about strippers, then they'd probably, you know, just go to a strip club. This film is serious in its portrayal of what these men go through, how they have to essentially turn into something else on stage, and how leaving the profession is harder than ditching the mafia. At the same time, Steven Soderbergh knows how to direct good acting and dialogue, and so there are plenty of great laughs as well, including a hilarious scene of Channing Tatum singing Happy Birthday in an Marilyn Monroe outfit.
Speaking of Tatum, when did this guy become a good actor? Perhaps it was the strong script or maybe it's because the film was inspired by his own experiences as a stripper, but he brings real fire to this movie. Even in scenes with the boisterous Dallas (McConaughey), Tatum owns the room. His character is in many ways two people. There's the fast talking, well connected alpha male who makes deals, has lots of sex (usually two at once) and lives fast, and then there's the soft-spoken guy, almost like a family man, who has an honest and earthy desire to make custom furniture, own a respectable business, and connect with someone in a meaningful way. Tatum doesn't just act as these personalities; he inhabits them, and at no point did I see him as performing, which is the best compliment you can give an actor. Many people complained about McConaghey not getting an Oscar nod, but I think Tatum is the standout actor here. His acting is very believable, and most importantly, emotionally involving. When he's in a bad place, (such as a rather heartbreaking bank scene) you feel for him.
Similar things could be said for many of the actors, as they all deliver their lines in a natural way, which enhances the whole documentary-like atmosphere. Another thing that makes this seem like a documentary are the stripping scenes. They seem like real stripping performances and I'm positive there was extensive research for this movie. Tatum especially does some impressive moves, and yet the movie doesn't shy away for displaying just how ridiculous these acts are. I'm talking dudes in thongs slapping their junk in a girl's face on stage for ten straight seconds. This movie pulled no stops in showing every part of the stripper lifestyle, from the onstage antics, the backstage preparation, the training, and of course, the rampant drug use.
But now we come to the reason why I said this movie is really good, and not great. It's because since it works exceptionally as a documentary, and there is so much effort put into the movie feeling authentic, that the story suffers a bit from it. For the first hour and half there is almost no progression of an actual story other than a new guy Adam being ushered into the stripper culture. The real plot elements, which are Adam fucking everything up and Mike and Brooke's budding romance, are developed way too late in the movie. They do not receive nearly enough time and it felt like the moment the movie was about the go somewhere it was over. The last half hour feels incredibly rushed and there was clearly some shoddy editing done here. At the end of the movie Brooke and Mike are practically boyfriend and girlfriend and while their did have good chemistry in their scenes together, there wasn't enough. The ending didn't feel justified, it felt abrupt.
Also, this doesn't really spoil anything, but the main plot of this movie is Mike trying to leave the stripper life. They try to show us why he wants to leave so badly, and while I buy the fact he wants to start an honest business, the movie also tries to cram some discord between Mike and Dallas as the last second, as if they're enemies. Sorry movie, but you can't just say "Ok, there has been years of tension between these two guys" in the final ten minutes of the film. But that's not what bothered me the most. What irked me was that one of Mike's issues was that he was being treated like a sex object. The movie doesn't tell you this directly, but it's fairly obvious since his hookup girl just wants him for sex and then disappears to get engaged, which hurts him, and also he's a fuckin' male stripper. It's clear that he enjoys his time with Brooke because it's a normal bond they share, and she isn't just seeing him as a wad of muscle.
YET at the end, Brooke tells him with barely-hidden sexual urgency him at the end that the two of them have seven hours to kill, and without waiting for a response she kisses him. It's not a bad ending, although it's not a great one either, but I couldn't help but feel that having sex thrown on him was the last thing that dude needed at that moment. It's was like he was being used once again. This is not me being oversensitive or anything, as the two of them hooking up would have been a fine finale if the film wasn't about a guy trying to move past being a sex symbol. I could be reading too much into it, but it threw me off.
In addition, the character Adam is such a fucking asshole it detracts from the film. I know he's supposed to be a careless mooch and it's admirable that the movie didn't feel obligated to make him mend his ways and all that, but I wanted to hit with a chair every time he was on screen and I wanted so bad for Mike to beat the piss out of him. Mike did everything for the guy, from saving his ass to getting him a job to forking over a ton of money. He was practically his guardian angel yet Adam couldn't care less. I wanted some comeuppance. I know bad people exist in the movie for a reason, but he simply had too much screen time. More should have been given to Mike and Brooke's relationship, as well as the tension between Mike and Dallas. Plus, these three characters were the most fun to watch, so why not concentrate on your best goods?
After all that I've said, this is a solid and very entertaining movie. It's 110 minutes but it flies faster than an episode mid-season South Park. It did something mature and bold with the subject matter, and its script, despite having some plot issues, was sharp, witty, and was complemented by strong acting. I don't think it has much replay value but I would highly recommend to anyone. Except my mom. Or my dad. Or anyone over forty and under twenty. But if you're in that 20-40 sweetspot, Netflix that shit.
Best Way to Watch: With a mix of girls and guys at the beach.