At the time I’m writing this, IMDB’s recommendation engine seems to think that Magic Mike has something in common with the 1926 classic The General, in which Buster Keaton plays a locomotive engineer in the south during the civil war who needs to rescue his train and his girl when they are taken by union soldiers. I certainly wish there had been a lot more similarities. I wish Magic Mike had been more original, more respectful to women, and more silent. But most of all, I wish it had been good.
Mike (Channing Tatum) dreams of the day when he can live on the beach and make and sell custom furniture. But he can’t afford to do that right now, so he spends his days working in construction and his nights as the featured performer in an up-and-coming Tampa strip club owned by Dallas (Matthew McConaughey). The money is good and the girls are easy, so it’ll do for now.
Mike’s day job introduces him to Adam (Alex Pettyfer), who is failing to make a good impression as a roofer after squandering a college football scholarship. When Adam is out for a night on the town, he runs into Mike while he’s trying to drum up business for the strip club. Mike tells Adam that he can earn a few dollars if he can help round up some customers, which he does admirably. And later that night when a stripper goes down with an injury, Adam finds himself on the stage taking it off.
Steven Soderbergh is a talented director, which probably makes Magic Mike one of the best-shot male stripper movies in existence (although I can’t say that I’ve seen many others to compare it with), but otherwise there is absolutely nothing of value. The story is shallow and unoriginal, and while it may have superficial similarity with Boogie Nights, it has neither the quality cast nor the quality performances. What it does have is a lot of cliches, from absurd costumes and dance routines (including the obligatory “It’s Raining Men”) to a scene in which police busting a sorority house party turn out to be not actually police. The too-big-for-his-britches newcomer quickly finds himself in trouble with drugs and drug dealers. And of course about half the dialogue from the constantly-shirtless McConaughey includes the phrase “all right, all right, all right.”
I honestly can’t understand why critics have treated Magic Mike so favorably. The the acting and the story are unremarkable, it’s much too long, and the end is completely unsatisfying. One could probably argue that you don’t go to a movie about strippers for the story, but I’d suggest that if you just want to see strippers, then you should just go to a strip club, and you can scream “woo” all you want without impacting the quality of the presentation. If you want to see a movie, then you can do a lot better than Magic Mike.