By Laurie Coker

Rating: B

When I moved to Austin in the early 1980s, strip clubs geared toward women were all the rage. My sister and her best friend Holly attended several shows before they talked me into going, and I will say the Le Bare and Chippendale men were certainly hot, cut and gleaming, but oddly (and completely) shaved, and for me, uncomfortably clad in what some refer to as banana hammocks. I found the whole ordeal a bit icky. I know, I know, I sound like a prude, and maybe I am, but I believe a beautiful body scantly clothed is far more appealing than one totally, or almost totally nude. Still of the three films screening on one night, partly because of proximity of theatre, I chose Magic Mike, a surprisingly fun male strip film with a great deal of flesh and a little heart.

Channing Tatum, a gorgeous man growing greatly as an actor, stars as thirty-year-old Mike, an self-proclaimed entrepreneur and stripper, who befriends nineteen-year-old Adam (Alex Pettyfer), a young man with no direction and an overprotective sister, Brooke (Cody Horn). After meeting him on a construction site (day job), Mike gets Adam(later dubbed “The Kid”) into the life of a male exotic dancer and all that that entails – parties, sex, and drugs. Matthew McConaughey plays club owner and dancer Dallas and his crew of hip undulating bodies (in addition to Mike and Adam) consists of Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello), Ken (Matt Bomer), Tito (Adam Rodriquez) and Tarzan (Kevin Nash, who looks eerily like Mickey Roarke in this) and these fellows bring it! But even with all this flesh flashing from finely honed bodies, the film does have its weak points and slow moments.

Tatum, who actually stripped briefly before becoming an actor, plays his part perfectly and we, I am speaking for women, are the luckier for it. He offers the whole package, super seductive, astonishingly acrobatic, and tantalizingly talented as a dancer. And of course, McConaughey sports an ultra trim, purely lickable physique, but I will note that a few of his outfits reveal far too much (paradoxically showing far too little, wink, wink in a certain spot). Regardless of costuming, he shines and completely encompasses Dallas, the semi-sleazy, money hungry strip club chieftain. Honestly, I have but one casting and acting complaint and that lies with Horn, who lacks any real depth or variance of emotion in her performance of Brooke, an uptight, overly-judgmental and rightly over-protective older sister. She is bland next to Tatum in looks and skill, and I never could see or feel the connection between them at all. They simply lack any notable on screen chemistry and she can’t act. The balance of the cast (those who speak more than they strip) play well together, but it is Tatum and McConaughey’s film and Pettyfer, Bommer, Rodriquez and Manganiello offer arousing icing to the beefcake.

Certainly we get a close up view of the mayhem in the club where women control the dollar bills and men take it (nearly) all off for their pleasure, but director Steven Soderbergh and writer Reid Carolin take us behind the scenes and linger over the details of these performers’ daily lives – buying thongs, dreaming of better money, pursuing love, delving into drugs, partaking in meaningless sex and working on the machinations of normalcy, in spite of it all. Magic Mike is way too fun (and light) to be compared seriously to the likes of Boogie Nights, but Soderbergh does delve into the bleaker side of the trade, taking his leads down dark paths, and yet, all the while entertaining us with wit and charm. Because of this (and the MEN) the simple, formulaic and sometimes slowing moving story is tolerable.

I did not squeal like the throngs of women in the audience often did, but I did enjoy the ride immensely. I marveled at how excited the gals got, and thought about how gay men and straight women alike will go in droves (it’s a great film for groups of friends to share) to see the R-rated Magic Mike. And they will not be disappointed. Much like the clubs and men who inspired it, Magic Mike will raise the roof and the heat this summer. I am placing a B in my grade book. I liked the movie and the men too.

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