Magic Mike | Movie review
Tatum and Soderbergh’s stripper story is as interested in money as money shots.
Channing Tatum has cited Saturday Night Fever as the template for Magic Mike, but those prepared to boogie should remember who’s MC. Inspired by Tatum’s brief out-of-high-school stint as a male stripper, Steven Soderbergh’s fourth release in two years is actually two movies in one. The first is a classic rise-to-fame story, in which Tatum’s eponymous beefcake slab plucks construction-worker friend Adam (Alex Pettyfer) from obscurity and turns him into an overnight dancing sensation. The second is more experimental: As interested in money as money shots, Soderbergh alternates the expected scenes of his game, wax-chested stars with conversations about equity, the strain of working multiple jobs, and how watching CNBC can be a great financial education for your kid.
What looks like a blockbuster quickly turns into a male version of The Girlfriend Experience. Like Soderbergh’s Sasha Grey vehicle, Magic Mike deals with a world where class mobility requires selling your body, the line between work and life is impossibly porous, and—in another Fever echo—glittery surfaces mask economic desperation. Just as Tony Manero aspired to leave Brooklyn for Manhattan, the dancers plan to ditch Tampa for a new club in Miami. Perhaps recognizing that conversations about ownership stake don’t sizzle, the movie zeroes in on Mike’s sorta-romance with Adam’s sister (Cody Horn, exuding a wonderful, natural petulance); it’s the movie’s most Hollywood-ready thread, and its most enjoyable. But engaging and novel as it is, Magic Mike doesn’t reconcile commercial and subversive modes as smoothly as Haywire or Contagion. More than usual with Soderbergh, it leaves you wondering what it’s all about—beyond proving this material can be Soderbergh-ized.