When young, lost Adam (Alex Pettyfer) ends up meeting a charismatic guy named Mike (Channing Tatum), he inadvertently changes the course of his future. Mike introduces Adam “The Kid” into the world of male stripping, and the two share in the exploits and adventures that result from that lifestyle. All of this is much of the dismay of Adam’s sister Brooke (Cody Horn), who disapproves of her brother’s choices but can’t help but be drawn to Mike’s charm.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh with a script by Reid Carolin (part of Tatum’s production team), this movie elevates itself way, way above what the trailers would have viewers believe and ends up being a smart, exceedingly well-cast movie that is both comedy and drama. This is an exceptional film, worthy of viewers’s time and money. Everything about this movie works on every level. It’s one of the best films of 2012.
Much has been made of the fact that this movie is based on Tatum’s own experiences working as a stripper when he was 18 or 19. Even though (the sometimes wooden) Pettyfer is playing the role of a similar young man, this is still Tatum’s movie. If this isn’t a star-making role for Tatum, nothing will ever be. Tatum is absolutely riveting as the charismatic, funny Mike, and his dance moves have never been more fun to watch. There’s no denying that this is an actor with actual talent, and viewers will find themselves surprised by Tatum’s range and ability to embody the character of Mike–it is impossible not to root for this guy who has genuine ambition but is more than a little lost.
The rest of the cast is also very good. Despite Pettyfer’s tendency to be a little stiff (much of what might come from his attempt to put on an American accent), he’s a natural on the stage, and watching his transformation from virginal, hesitant teenager to an egomaniacal professional stripper is fairly gripping, too. Matthew McConaughey is at his greasy best as the club’s owner and MC. The rest of the stripper bunch–including Joe Magniaello and Matt Bomer–are good in the scenes they’re given. But like I said, this is Tatum’s movie, and viewers won’t be able to look away.
Adding to the film’s depth is a tentative, budding relationship with Adam’s sister. Horn plays the character of Brooke with a natural easiness. She serves as the movie’s own skeptic, watching what’s happening from an outsider’s perspective. The chemistry she has with Tatum is palpable, but Soderbergh is careful to never let this aspect of the story overtake the rest of the film.
It’s exceptionally smart and frequently funny, but the movie doesn’t shy away from darker subject material. As Adam becomes more enmeshed in the seedy parts of the business, the film allows viewers to experience it with him, but the tone is never moralistic or judgmental. This is part of what makes the movie so great, but it’s the performances that elevate it to another level.
Highly, highly recommended. One of my favorites of the year. Magic Mike is out in theaters now.