On paper, “Magic Mike” doesn’t seem like much — a melodrama about the seedy world of male strippers that’s got a little “A Star Is Born” and a little “All About Eve” as a story foundation.
That’s on paper. In practice, thanks to the sex-saturated atmosphere created by director Steven Soderbergh and a ruggedly authentic lead performance by Channing Tatum, “Magic Mike” shimmers with the allure of its domain. It’s a movie that buys into the fantasy of the stripper world, even while deconstructing that world one pelvic thrust at a time.
Tatum plays the title character, who works Tampa construction jobs by day and stars in a male dance revue by night. It’s the dancing that makes Mike the real money, not to mention the women — whom he often shares with his tag-team sex pal Joanna (Olivia Munn). But Mike has a dream to turn all that thong-stuffing cash into some real money with a custom-furniture business, if he can get a stake in a bigger strip club his boss Dallas (Matthew McConaughey) has long planned to open in Miami.
Mike meets Adam (Alex Pettyfer) on his construction job and soon introduces the aimless 19-year-old college dropout to Dallas — and throws him up onstage to strip. Adam, nicknamed “The Kid,” takes to the stage quickly and soon is enjoying the high living of parties, drugs and hot women. Less thrilled about Adam’s new job is his protective sister Brooke (Cody Horn), to whom Mike takes a shine.
Soderbergh directs “Magic Mike” with style to burn, fusing the gloss of his “Ocean’s 11” movies with the grit of “Traffic.” Acting as his own cinematographer (under his pseudonym, Peter Andrews), he is especially effective at capturing the low-budget glitz of Dallas’ club, in which the stage becomes the playground of women’s fantasies.
Tatum — who produced “Magic Mike,” providing stories to rookie screenwriter Reid Carolin from his own pre-fame stripping career — elevates to star level with this performance. He gives his all (and his clothes) to the energetic stripper routines, but he adds a surprising emotional punch to the drama.
The other surprise MVP is McConaughey, who gets to satirize his off-screen persona (frequently shirtless, playing the bongos and saying “awright, awright” in his Texas drawl) as he crafts a devilish character turn as the ringmaster of this hedonistic circus that will get women and men hot and bothered.
Director Steven Soderbergh and star Channing Tatum team up for a sexy, seedy drama in the world of male strippers.
Where • Theaters everywhere.
When • Opens today.
Rating • R for pervasive sexual content, brief graphic nudity, language and some drug use.
Running time • 110 minutes.