Aside from the incredible physical aesthetics--or "eye candy" for the pedestrians out there--MAGIC MIKE has an even more incredible heart at its centre--and all thanks to Tatum's courage in sharing his very human vulnerability.
Brit Alex Pettyfer plays the part of a very young man aptly named Adam--not more than 19--and angry at the world, in classic denial of reality through an unearned sense of entitlement consistent with today's GenMe that makes him unemployable, and in almost every other way, unable to create and/or sustain consistent relationships. He can't even hold a job in construction. And he doesn't live with his parents, but on his sister's couch. That is, until he meets Magic Mike. Mike is played well by Channing Tatum, who was also mentored by an older male stripper in his early life. Pettyfer's character is loosely based on Tatum's experience in the male entertainment industry in Tampa, where the film is also set.
What I absolutely loved about the film was the display of Tatum's true athleticism--that boy can dance! And he was about the only one who could. Though Joe Manganiello is my favourite under-dog on TRUE BLOOD, he lacks the flavor Tatum has in spades. But Manganiello is cast as "Big Dick Richie"--the in-ur-endo is cameoed in the film a la penis pump. In other words, Richie didn't have to dance. No one really did with Tatum on set.
Matthew McConaughey is known for his laid-back Texas charm and was cast perfectly as Dallas, the seedy, egotistical strip club owner taking advantage of his employees by making promises he'll never keep. Kind of like the old flame you wish you could erase from your past. McConaughey does pull some classic stripper moves toward the end of the film--stuff you might have seen at an all-male revue in the 1980's--nothing like Tatum's "Step Up" moves, but consistent with McConaughey's character so fun to watch. A little premiere gossip from McConaughey and Tatum: McConaughey, who is now expecting his third child, proposed (and is now married) to his long-time girlfriend and baby-mama at Tatum's urgings. McConaughey also credited Tatum with being the "$41-million man," admitting that his own star-status has never earned that in an opening weekend.
Tatum's love interest in MAGIC MIKE is Brooke, played by Cody Horn (who also played "Brooke" on TV's White Collar with MIKE co-star, Matt Bomer). Horn is the daughter of former Warner Bros. President, Alan Horn, now the Chairman at Disney. By the way, Warner Bros. was the domestic distributor of MAGIC MIKE. Ah, nepotism.
Reid Carolin, writer for MAGIC MIKE and friend of Tatum's talented wife, Jenna Dewan (daughter of Daryll Dewan, 1972 running back for Notre Dame), wrote the screenplay based on Channing Tatum's early experiences; Tatum doesn't have any writing credits, but based on the realistic elements, he should. Tatum, Dewan and Carolin (a Harvard and NYU grad) are partners in two production companies, including 33andout Productions and Iron Horse. Tatum has been quoted in recent interviews saying he doesn't want to be involved in any film he doesn't have some creative control over. And judging by his prolific work in the last four years, that was a good decision. His first project debuted at Tribeca in 2010, a rivoting documentary called EARTH MADE OF GLASS.
MAGIC MIKE isn't what audiences might expect; it's not just about a bunch of half-naked guys. The film is really a story about personal evolution. Have you ever felt stuck, wanting to move forward, but not really knowing how? If you're a human being, chances are good the answer to that question is a resounding YES. Tatum's on-screen portrayal of his off-screen experience is relatable to almost everyone, whether you can dance or not. And the entertainment value in MAGIC MIKE is beyond reproach, thanks to the keen cinematography of Peter Andrews and the excellent editing skills of Mary Ann Bernard...both of whom are pseudonyms for the hardest working director in Hollyhood, Steven Soderbergh.
The parallels with 1983's Flashdance are hard not to notice, though. Both films are about strippers who work construction during the day and strip by night. Both films feature strippers who are extraordinarily talented dancers. Both are driven by the protagonist's sense of wanting more personally and professionally. Both have unlikely romances. And both involve the dark and dirty underbelly of the stripping industry. Luckily, Tatum never dons an off-the-shoulder sweatshirt or leg warmers.
Props go to Olivia Munn (Attack of the Show, The Newsroom), Matt Bomer (White Collar), Kevin Nash (WWE), and Adam Rodriguez (CSI: Miami, The Dark Knight Rises) for their fun performances. Alex Pettyfer (I Am Number Four) was also very good as Adam; his performance was so convincing, that as a parent of a similarly aged young man, I actually became frustrated with him.
The film's budget was under $7-million, mostly fronted by Soderbergh and Tatum. The film opened to the tune of $40-million at the box office; to date, it's earned almost $65-million. There is no one in Hollyhood who deserves the success more than Tatum. To go from nothing to where Tatum is today took unimaginable guts, smarts, and talent. I predict Tatum will be one of Hollywood's top leading men in the next decade, replacing guys like Tom Cruise, George Clooney and Brad Pitt--all of whom are hovering at or around age 50; they'll always be popular sex-symbols but like Soderbergh says, when you become a brand, people will get tired of you. Nearly 20 years their junior, Tatum is poised to become one of the most powerful leading men in Hollywood. You heard it here first!!!
All in all MAGIC MIKE earns top billing on the Housel-scale, a perfect 10/10! Yup. MAGIC MIKE is #PopCultureProfessor APPROVED! Worth every dime, the film is a summer MUST-SEE.