Magic Mike

Posted on June 28, 2012 at 6:00 pm

You might expect a movie about strippers to be either a glossy Hollywood fantasy or a gritty, sour, documentary.  The surprise of “Magic Mike” is that it avoids both extremes with an appealing naturalness and intimacy that softens but does not glamorize its setting.  

It is inspired by the experiences of co-producer and star Channing Tatum as an exotic dancer before he broke through as an unexpectedly versatile actor (“Step Up,” “G.I. Joe,” “Dear John,” “21 Jump Street”). Equally versatile director Stephen Soderburgh (“Traffic,” “Erin Brockovich,” “Sex, Lies, and Videotape,” “Oceans 11”) gently bumps the story a couple of degrees away from the sordid to keep things fun and even romantic.  The big musical numbers are grander and more elaborate than anything you might actually see in a small Tampa club catering to sorority girls and bachelorette parties.  But even when it gets debauched and dangerous, it is still kind of sweet.  It has a bit of the sense of discovery of Robert Altman’s “The Company.”  Plus, those guys have some moves.  The dance numbers are a blast, witty, sexy, and very wooo-worthy.

Tatum plays Mike, a would-be entrepreneur who does a little of this and that (and wears very little of this and even less of that) as he tries to straighten out his financial situation so that he can pursue his dream of designing furniture.  He meets a young college drop-out named Adam (Alex Pettyfer), and introduces him to the world of exotic dancing, from trolling bars to entice girls to come to the show to turning himself into the fantasy lover they love to be scandalized by.  The owner is Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), who has promised Mike he will open up a big club in Miami and make Mike his partner.  (Drinking game: take a shot every time McConaughey says “all right.”)

Adam lives with his sister Brooke, played by the very appealing Cody Horn, who has a wonderful easy chemistry with Tatum.  So there is a classic structure, with Mike in the center between the hardened and cynical Dallas and the naive kid in a candy store Adam, drawn to the dream of a different life with Brooke.  What takes this out of the category of fluff is the way the story is unaffectedly located in the reality of the economic struggles of the area and our time.  Mike tries to persuade a bank loan officer to give him some money, shoving stacks of bills across her desk and not quite understanding that even though he is still selling, this transaction differs from the easy and sleazy environments he frequents.  But she sees who he is.  So does Brooke, and that helps him to see himself beyond the breakaway pants.

Parents should know that this story centers on male strippers with very suggestive dancing, skimpy costumes, male and female nudity, sexual references and situations, drinking, drug use and drug dealing.

Family discussion:  Was Mike different from the other dancers?  What made it difficult for him to achieve his goals?

If you like this, try: “The Full Monty” and “Step Up”

Related Tags:


Date movie Drama Inspired by a true story Musical Romance

7 Replies to “Magic Mike”

  1. How could a movie reviewer, who is a mother (possibly of an adolescent son, whose sense of self would be deeply injured by the way women objectify these strippers so aggressively)ever applaud this movie? How could a faith-based blog–one that sees all people as worthy of inherent dignity–ever condone this rank pornography? This is a tragedy.

    1. Professor, I appreciate your willingness to share your views and the ferocity of your conviction. But it is more helpful to explain the basis for your views than it is to merely question the legitimacy of someone’s reaction to the movie or faith or parenting. Everyone is worth of inherent dignity and if I felt this film was in violation of that principle I would have said so. This movie is a reflection of the real-life experience of producer-star Channing Tatum, as I noted in my review. It portrays him as a full-scale character with aspirations and fears and thus is respectful of his dignity and the audience’s, and that is the opposite of objectification. As I note in the review, it does not glamorize being a stripper (compare it to last year’s “Burlesque”) and it does not meet any definition of pornography in its intent or execution. My reviews are intended to let readers have the information they need to make a decision that is right for them and their families. I don’t recommend this film for everyone, but I think for many people it can be a worthwhile and enjoyable and enlightening experience.

  2. Hi Nell,

    We do not need to introduce our children to evil, in order to give them a well rounded view on life or human experience. Your review, while expressing very well the worldly wisdom of our day, is opposed to the teaching of scripture. It causes me to wonder what sort of “belief,” promotes.

    1. I am proud of Beliefnet’s warm welcome to people of all faiths as well as those who seek and question. As we state on every page, “Our mission is to help people like you find, and walk, a spiritual path that will bring comfort, hope, clarity, strength, and happiness.” I respect all who seek a relationship with the sacred but find more connection with those who come from a place of humility and devote their efforts to kindness, compassion, and understanding. I am sure you did not intend to communicate a sense of superiority and intolerance that would reinforce the mis-impression some people have about those who like to talk about their faith. This movie is not for everyone but it is no more evil than any other story with good guys and bad guys. It is certainly not intended for or appropriate for children but adults who want to see it will find their spirits enlarged by its portrayal of the characters’ struggle to lead a more honest life.

  3. I was surprise about the comments here on your post, this is all I can say,it’s not for children. And if your an adult you should know what to pick up and not on this movie.

  4. Hi Nell,

    I would like to follow up on your response to my comments by making two points. First you say in your review that the lowest appropriate viewing age for this film is a “Mature High Schooler.” Very rarely are high school students 18 years old. They are in the eyes of the law therefore not adults, and are still children. Therefore you are recommending this movie for children. You also say that this movie is “no more evil than any other story with good guys and bad guys.” Followed to its logical conclusion, this is a remarkable statement. What you are saying is that we can compare male strippers on a moral level to members of our armed forces who are depicted in war movies as the good guys. It is unfortunate that such vague reasoning has led you to such misguided and inappropriate conclusions.

    1. Mature high schoolers are not children, as a matter of law or dictionary definition. They are 17 and 18 years old. The word “mature” is included to distinguish those who are capable of understanding the material from those of that age who are not. No one reading this review could conclude that I am recommending it for children or for adults who would be offended by the material. As for good guys and bad guys — the movie portrays the male strippers as individuals, with faults and good qualities. Some of them are more like good guys and others are more like bad guys, though none of them are all one or the other, which would not be a very good story. The main character, as I said, struggles to find a more honest and authentic way to live, and he makes an important and meaningful sacrifice to protect someone else and take responsibility for his carelessness, so yes, I consider him a good guy. I wonder if you have seen the movie. I am not telling you to see it as I do not think you would like it but it seems “misguided and inappropriate” for you to make such claims without having watched it.

      It is important in an argument not to rebut positions no one took. I did not compare the main character in this movie to people who risk their lives to protect our freedom. But even those people are not all good or all bad. They are human beings and that is what makes stories interesting and meaningful and important. This is not a classic film, but it is not what you say it is.

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