Magic Mike is the latest drama from eclectic director Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Contagion). Channing Tatum stars as Mike, a top billed male stripper whose real passion is making furniture. Using his stripping work to raise cash for his own furniture business, Mike is offered an investment in a new Miami strip club and is faced with a life-changing decision. Seemingly trapped in the male stripping world, Mike also uncovers new talent in Adam (Alex Pettyfer) and introduces him to the club. But when Mike sparks a relationship with Adam’s older sister, Brooke (Cody Horne), he becomes more aware of the dark side of the male stripping culture.

Inspired by Channing Tatum’s own experiences as a male stripper during his late teens, Magic Mike aims to capture the atmosphere and energy of the male stripping scene. Magic Mike does just that – it’s a music filled film that immerses its audience in male strip shows to the tune of It’s Raining Men and Like A Virgin. A number of less corny, bass filled routines that show off some seriously good dance moves also find a place in the film. Plus there’s plenty of back stage banter and partying that captures the camaraderie of the strip show’s ensemble. All of this is entertaining and good fun and it becomes easy to understand the lure of the stripping industry on young men like Adam.

But Magic Mike’s final act tries to make a much more serious point about the stripping industry. A drug fueled party ends in a rambling scene of medicated delirium followed by Brooke’s fears for her brother’s life. While the film’s dual perspectives, in the experienced Mike and naive Adam, show the dangers of involvement in the industry over time, this message is hard to swallow given the degree to which Magic Mike glamourises male stripping during its first half. In Magic Mike, the harsh realities of the stripping lifestyle are too fleetingly explored.

On the plus side, Tatum, who also produced the movie, is on good form. He brings us a fun-loving character who steadily out-grows his lifestyle throughout the film. In a stand out scene during an argument with Brooke, Mike struggles to articulate himself, and Tatum trips over his words with finesse.

As Dallas, former stripper and now club owner, Matthew McConaughey is a great addition to the cast. One of the more bizarre and comedic scenes sees McConaughey bouncing up and down a gym in black hot pants and a tight yellow vest, preaching about the role of male strippers as he trains Adam.

Magic Mike is good entertainment but can’t seem to decide what type of film it wants to be, indulging its audience in far too much glamourous stripping to make a solid point about the male stripping industry. With quality performances from Tatum and McConaughey, Magic Mike is an enjoyable film but could have been much more.

VERDICT:  ✪ ✪ ✪

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