When you decide to watch a film about a group of male strippers, with a cast full of Hollywood eye candy and a director known for making Ocean’s Eleven, it’s fair to say that you go into the cinema with certain expectations. George Clooney in a thong, for one. Alas, George does not appear in Magic Mike, so the hordes of hen parties that are certain to descend on cinemas everywhere upon the film’s release will just have to make do with the stripper styling of Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer and Matthew McConaughey. Poor things.
But Magic Mike is not simply a glossy production designed to make as much money as possible from the thinnest of plots, it boasts both a convincing storyline and a depth to its characters – namely the supposedly magical protagonist, played by Tatum. Yes, it is essentially a film in which some of the industry’s most well-known bodies are shown in gratuitous close-ups, and it will be some time before I am able to remove the 30 foot high image of McConaughey’s tasselled behind from my scarred retinas. But the autobiographical nature of the story underpins the sense that these are real people trying to deal with their issues by not facing them until they are forced to by each other.
Tatum’s obvious passion for a project that depicts the beginnings of his adult life is shown through his quiet portrayal of a man conflicted between continuing his hedonistic lifestyle and pursuing his dream of becoming an artist. As the titular Mike imparts his stripper wisdom to rookie Alex Pettyfer, an introverted no-hoper who seems intent on having fun whatever the cost, the film begins to recall All About Eve, as the tired star is overshadowed by a bright young thing in a thong. It is through the inspired performance of Cody Horn as Pettyfer’s sister that the characters are able to develop over the course of the film, her general attitude of disgust and her cautious flirtation with Tatum have the effect of grounding characters that could all too easily have become caricatures.
The most surprising aspect of Magic Mike were the number of men in the screening that I attended, all of whom enjoyed the wry humour which the film imparts and seemed to leave the cinema with a smile on their face and a somewhat excited girlfriend on their arm. Yes, it’s a great date movie, but be prepared to put up with the level of sheer excitement that such a high concentration of male nudity may create in your lady friend.
**** An interesting script, real characters and even better casting. If they make a sequel, I hope it’s in 3D
[Image via http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk]