To play the titular male stripper nicknamed Magic Mike, Channing Tatum drew upon his own pre-fame experiences as a exotic dancer, and it shows. To put it bluntly, the guy thrusts his pelvis like a pure professional, like a wave lapping the shore. No wonder female audiences ate this movie up.
Too bad eye candy is all it offers them (and, for the guys, nude Olivia Munn and Episodes’ Mircea Monroe). Magic Mike takes it upon himself to usher Alex (Alex Pettyfer, I Am Number Four), a down-on-his-luck construction-site buddy, into the nighttime world of gyrating for dollar bills at a small club owned and operated by fellow performer Dallas (Matthew McConaughey, destroying the goodwill he built up with Killer Joe). That’s all hunky-dory (pun intended) until Mike falls for Alex’s physician-assistant sister (Cody Horn, End of Watch), who acts more like his mother and isn’t fond of his new career choice.
There should be conflict in that scenario, but drama is not Tatum’s strong suit (that’d be comedy, as 21 Jump Street surprised us earlier this year) and Horn’s face is a blank slate; with her underbite, she looks wicked pissed. Plus, newbie screenwriter Reid Carolin veers his story down a ridiculous route in Act 3 that only demolishes the drywall of credibility on its way to a non-ending brought forth by at least two unbelievable changes of character.
As with Soderbergh’s other recent experiments in genre, this film exudes a feeling of semi-improvisation. If so, it should have been tightened, because pacing is a real issue, and Magic Mike grinds its way (holy hell, yes, pun intended) to nearly two hours. For perspective’s sake, that’s longer than Contagion, which traces the outbreak of a killer virus among dozens of characters nationwide, whereas most of this takes place on a tiny stage that gets dry-humped. —Rod Lott