Magic Mike: The Full Package

 

First of all, I need to apologize for that pun in the title. There’s no excuse, really. So let’s get to it, and put it behind us.

You need to know something about me. I’m a sap. A sucker. A dupe. Why? Because I allowed the trailers for Magic Mike to shape my expectations of the movie. AS TRAILERS SHOULD! But unfortunately, they don’t always give us an accurate view of the movies they promote. For example, the EPIC trailers to Terminator: Salvation and Watchmen. But against all reason, I allowed myself to believe that Magic Mike was basically a 90 minute strip tease, a non-stop buffet of beefcake, an all-expenses-paid trip to the Isle of MAN. But what I got, surprisingly enough, was an actual movie. How disappointing.

Magic Mike is the story of, well, Mike Lane – construction worker/entrepreneur/something else by day, stripper by night. He’s been in the game for six years, and this whole time he’s been saving up to start his own business doing what he loves: making custom furniture. At the construction company, he meets Adam, a 19 year old who is perfectly content sleeping on his sister’s couch rather than doing anything he doesn’t want to do. This means turning down jobs because they want him to wear a tie, or quitting for being told not to steal soda. Seriously, he’s a brat. But then he starts stripping, and begins to grow up, and Mike gets his loan, quits his jobs, and starts his business, and gets the girl, the end.

Except not at all. Serious spoilers to follow.

Ultimately, the appeal of the night life proves too much for Adam. As someone who has lived paycheck to paycheck, there actually IS a strange allure to these kinds of jobs. You get to sleep late, stay up late, and when your only worry in the world is making rent, there’s an odd peace. I mean, yes, sometimes there’s nausea or panic as the end of the month draws closer and your bank account gets emptier. But it’s a very “now”-centric existence, without worrying about the future, or anything else. He begins dealing drugs as a way to make some extra money, but gets in way over his head, owing the dealers over $10,000. Ultimately Mike bails him out, sacrificing most of his life’s savings to do so. At the end of the day Mike is left having quit stripping with no real plan, and Adam is the same entitled prick he started as. It was a bit of a downer, really. But hey, he got the girl so… yay?

It was this non-conventional story/ending that made me like the movie so much. I mean… I would have liked it pretty much regardless, what with the Channing Tatum’s butt in the first five seconds of movie, and the Joe Manganiello playing a character aptly named “Big Dick Richie,” and the Matt Bomer and all. But from a critical perspective, I actually really enjoyed it. It didn’t glamorize stripping, but actually portrayed it for what it is: a little bit fun, but also equal parts sad and ridiculous. When you do an act as a Ken doll coming to life, or as a golden statue, or Tarzan… your life is sad and ridiculous. And I liked that things didn’t work out perfectly in the end. Magic Mike could have easily been a “stripper with a heart of gold” movie, where everyone learns and grows and hugs and gets real jobs. But it wasn’t, and that’s pretty gutsy for a film largely marketed to Lifetime special-watching housewives.

And of course, this being a Soderbergh film, it is gorgeously filmed. Yes, at times it feels a little pretentious for a movie about strippers, but it really does elevate the movie to more than just a sexy summer flick. And finally, the actors are all-around pretty great. Channing Tatum is charming as always, and as always, has great comedic timing. Alex Pettyfer plays petulant and self-destructive with shocking subtlety. Matthew McConaughey plays essentially himself, but balances dickish club owner, with weirdly paternal boss, with over-the-hill stripper very well. Manganiello and Bomer are good as well, though their roles are so small they sometimes feel like little more than window dressing (especially Joe… sigh…).

So I guess the bottom line is, don’t be suckered in by the marketing campaign. This movie might be too saucy for the average Christian viewer, though it was far less graphic and sexual than say True Blood or Game of Thrones or Spartacus. And the average All-American Male might think it’s too “gay,” but all the characters are straight, there’s Olivia Munn boobs, and honestly who cares. If I were straight, I would still rather take a girl to Magic Mike than Twilight, because at least this movie had quality acting, great cinematography, a soundtrack that wasn’t picked out by a teenage girl, and oh yeah, a real plot with tension and emotion.

TL;DR: Magic Mike is a movie, not a giant strip tease, and it’s honestly worth watching for the story, and not just the visuals – cinematic or beef-cake-ular.

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