Channing Tatum catches the eye in Steven Soderbergh’s male stripper buddy movie.
Cast your mind back to August 1997: Blair was brand new; the Spice Girls were the singular, gaudy embodiment of British Culture; and a cute little film called The Full Monty scuttled into cinemas and thrust its greasy Northern posing-pouch into the face of an unsuspecting world. Peter Cattaneo’s tale of six losers from Sheffield banding together to form a ramshackle strip-troupe touched a nerve. It wasn’t seedy or gratuitous but charming, beautiful and redemptive.
Fifteen years later, the moral and aesthetic landscape of the stripper movie has changed again. On the surface of Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike, the boys are badder, the bodies are buffer and the dicks are bigger. But underneath the sweat and machismo, Magic Mike somehow manages to retain the same gentle humanity and deep anguish prominent in its quaint British antecedent.
Channing Tatum plays the eponymous Mike, a roof tiler by day and wisecracking stripper by night. Up on the roof, Mike meets The Kid (Alex Pettyfer), a 19-year-old dropout with a thirst for anything better than what he’s got right now. Taken with the stripper’s cool demeanour and cooler lifestyle (which, go figure, is full of easy girls), The Kid crowbars his way into Mike’s life and the two become, you guessed it, buddies.
So the parameters are set: it’s a buddy movie, not a chick-flick. But wait – it’s a buddy movie with dudes who drop their trousers for a living, so it’s full of gross physical comedy and carwash montages, right? Wrong. Soderbergh initially trips over himself to try and get away from what might be expected of a film about male strippers, but after a few initial belly laughs and some shots of bare rear-ends, the film gradually descends towards something darker, more dangerous and ultimately more engaging.
From Matthew McConaughey’s strip-joint madame, Dallas ("Who’s got the cock? You do!"), to Joe Manganiello’s Big Dick Richie, the principal characters – all bar one of whom are male – aren’t dreamy Hollywood beefcakes. Behind their stripper façades, these men are compelling and vulnerable, and Soderbergh manages to capture their collective addiction to a superficially euphoric world that is, in reality, completely destructive, with his customarily astute eye.
Despite being decked-out in a different outfit, it’s not unlike its older British cousin. It’s not tacky. It’s not a romp. It’s not glossy and it’s not sexy. It has charm. But more than that, Magic Mike is a product of a time where the summer of love is well and truly over. It’s a coming-of-age story written on sandpaper about the bleak uncertainty of young adulthood, the slippery danger of getting too rich too quick, and the realisation that some dreams never will come true.
The half-full monty.
Dude, where’s my lap dance?
Boogie (nights) wonderland.