Its no great stretch to imagine the chiseled, hot-footed hottie Channing Tatum as a stripper. Its how he got his start in show business, after all.
And even though he never danced for his dollars, Matthew McConaughey has never been shy about shedding his shirt.
But thats the simple genius of Steven Soderberghs Magic Mike, a fictionalized spin on Tatums pre-Hollywood years in Florida, taking it off for ladies who stuffed tips into his thong. The casting does most of the work in this very entertaining dramedy set in a sexy/seedy world of male exotic dancers.
From the moment McConaughey, as the veteran owner of the Xquisite Dance Revue, struts onstage to introduce his ensemble and tell the ladies what you can and canNOT touch, we know were in good, um, hands. Soderberghs direction here is like stripping itself the selling of a fantasy, a tease. Its only as the film progresses that the sobering reality of this sordid world is stripped bare.
Tatum has the title role. By day, hes a hustler working as an off-the-books roofer, running a mobile car-detailing business, living in a beachfront split-level.
By night he is Magic Mike the break-dancing star of the Xquisite Dance Revue. Hes living the good life. Its a pity that all his businesses are cash-only. At 30, hes got no credit, no prayer of getting a loan to run the business that is his love: hand-crafted design.
Enter Adam, aka The Kid (Alex Pettyfer), a hunky college dropout. The Kid doesnt realize what Mike means when he says, You OWE me, as he gets him into a club. Next thing Adam knows, hes helping Mike hustle birthday girls into the strip club. After that, Davids up on stage, a virgin doing his first awkward striptease. The money rolls in and the lazy Adam realizes the REAL American Dream hes getting paid just for being pretty.
Soderbergh, working from Reid Carolins script, revels in the backstage making of a stripper scenes, as The Kid is trained to do the Ken Doll routine, the GI Joe strip, An Officer and a Gentleman, the trench-coat and umbrella Its Raining Men number.
And in his face, taunting the shy out of him, is Dallas, given a searing swagger by McConaughey.
The film showcases the dancers the funny beefsteak Joe Manganiello stands out in the supporting crew. And it sells the fantasy. For a while. The club patrons are young and gorgeous and beddable. The hours allow for enjoying the sun and fun as The Kings of Tampa.
And then the dark side shows up.
Tatum is spot-on, conflicted and perfect in the part. But McConaughey is the spark here, preening and amusing, but suggesting the dark side of the business and the only possible future for those who stay in it alone, with lots of ready cash but no self-respect.