Review of Magic Mike

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Veteran stripper Magic Mike (Channing Tatum) teaches a new stripper (Alex Pettyfer) about the occupation. They work at the club Xquisite, which is owned by a former stripper named Dallas (Matthew McConaughey). Directed by Steven Soderbergh, the comedy film is based on Tatum's real-life experience as a stripper in Tampa, Florida when he was 19 years old.
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Movie Review: "Magic Mike"

-- Rating: R (pervasive sexual content, language, some drug use, brief graphic nudity)
Length: 110 minutes
Release Date: June 29, 2012
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Genre: Comedy/Drama

"Magic Mike" stars Channing Tatum in a story based on his life as a barely legal teenage stripper who used his impossibly toned body to his advantage. The setting is Tampa, Florida, where Mike, called Magic Mike by his customers, works. This Mike is a little older than Tatum was when he stripped, but the story is only loosely based on his life. In the film, Mike wants to be a furniture builder rather than an actor, but he can't seem to raise the money to get started.

The club, Xquisite, has some regular clients although it is hardly an exclusive club. It does, however, offer Mike an additional way to make money three nights a week to save up toward his dream. A scene with a loan officer rejecting his business proposal yet again shows that he really has exhausted all other avenues to raise the capital. The clientele at Xquisite, eager to stuff dollar bills down his thong, seem to be his only answer, along with his two other jobs.

One of those other jobs is as a roofer, where he meets Adam (Alex Pettyfer), whom he brings to the club. He introduces him to the club manager Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), who tries to sweet-talk him into stripping. Adam refuses but is inadvertently pushed out onto the stage where the drunken women scream for him to take it off. The scene is completely awkward, but many women love a shy, awkward man. This makes him an instant hit. He decides to join the revue because he can make more money doing that then killing himself in the scorching sun each day as a roofer.

Adam is not really all that shy and awkward, though. In fact, he is a guy who recently got kicked off his college football team, throwing away his scholarship in the process. He moves in temporarily with his sister Brooke (Cody Horn), who has her life on track and wants to get Adam's back on track as well. When she finds out that Adam is stripping, she confronts Mike because he is the one who got him the gig. Mike promises her that he will see to it that no harm comes to Adam.

You should never make promises you can't keep, and Mike can't seem to keep this one. This complicates his relationship with Brooke, who he is falling deeply in love with. Meanwhile, Adam is introduced to drugs backstage and begins partying way too hard. He hits rock bottom one day when he wakes up in a pool of his own vomit with his one-night-stand's pet licking it up. It is a gross scene that brings the movie full circle from being pure eye-candy to being an eye-opener instead.

Along the way, the eye candy doesn't stop completely, though. Joe Manganiello from "True Blood" and Matt Bomer from "White Collar" also have prominent roles in the revue, baring their abs and behinds for a few extra dollars. Although watching Adam's descent into drug addiction is a bit bleak, those who are going thinking the film is nothing but dancing hard bodies likely won't be disappointed.

In the last few years, Channing Tatum has turned from a punchline to a bona fide star. "Magic Mike" is the culmination of that journey to stardom, telling a little bit about his life and how he got to where he is. It is an unflinching look at where he came from and how he made it big. With a summer 2012 release, it is very timely because many people who are down on their luck could use a rags-to-riches story. Although occasionally dark, at its core, "Magic Mike" really is a feel-good story about making it big, no matter what the word "big" means to you. In Mike's case, that is starting a furniture business. For the actor himself, it was making it in Hollywood.

The script was written by Tatum's producing partner Reid Carolin as both a comedy and a drama. It also gives an inadvertent lesson about how strip clubs operate, from the splitting of tips to who pays for costumes and props. It is also a sweet love story as relative newcomer Cody Horn, better known as a flatulent girlfriend in "Rescue Me," has great chemistry with Tatum. Don't be fooled by the fact that she is the daughter of a studio executive. She has real acting chops and might just be the real star in a movie that is full of them.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars