Early in the screening of Magic Mike that I attended a few weeks ago, I jokingly thought to myself "Well, now I finally understand the appeal of Channing Tatum." It was, of course, during one of his on-stage performances--and it was, I'll have to admit, an impressive one. Even to take the striptease aspect out of it, he is undoubtedly a talented dancer.
It was later in the film during a normal, non-stripping scene, that I realized I finally did understand the appeal. His Mike was a personable, likeable, and above all real character whose arc was truly the heart of the film. He is magnetic and elevates the performances of those around him. He is finally someone that I "get" as an actor. In fact, my highest praise for this film goes directly to Channing Tatum.
As one character's star rose and the other fell, I had to ask myself--which one was which? The movie, taking place over the course of a summer, begins with one character's introduction to the world of male stripping and follows his rise in the business. It has its nice parallel and bookends in a foil storyline.
In fact, that the film had such memorable characters and a notable storyline at all comes as something of a surprise. Yes, the film is directed by Steven Soderbergh, who once again deconstructs and analyzes an interesting if somewhat illicit or underground business and the systems that make it work.
I do wish some of the secondary characters had been more fleshed out. That is a regrettable pun, granted, but an appropriate one. Only two of the performers, along with their boss, really had any depth as characters. Mike's girlfriend (or not?) could also have used some characterization; it would have given her ultimate storyline more depth and meaning.
As it was, it was a nicely-directed film with real characterization and depth and everything. It was an interesting look at the job market and options in a down economy, too, but that is perhaps another discussion. Overall, I recommend the film regardless of one's orientation or gender, though I'll certainly say that if one is uncomfortable with the very visible male form, one would probably do better to look elsewhere. There is, undoubtedly, plenty of that.