The two best things about MAGIC MIKE are Channing Tatum’s ass (phenomenal!), and how helmer Steven Soderbergh shows up the whole overfed studio system, wrapping things up for a measly 7 mill (equally phenomenal). Everything else . . . not so hot. The simple, shopworn tale is all about Mike, a wannabe custom furniture builder who’s pushing 30 and feels his days as a strip club personality are winding down. He’s also trying to figure out his relationships with aging mentor Matthew McConaughey (hammy as Easter dinner in Texas) and with the new kid he takes under his wing. (That'd be Alex Pettyfer, a veritable Black Hole on the screen, sucking energy out of everyone he comes in contact with in a manner not seen since the heyday of Jason Patric). There’s no shame in hauling out formula stuff, even having the kid’s wise, over-protective sister around for a romantic cop-out ending is cool. But with nothing but the strip club milieu serving as trope freshener, it’s not long before your fixating on how much Tatum’s ears stick out. (They do!) Soderbergh, also lensing under a pseudonym, puts up some lovely long takes and isn’t afraid to let a scene play out as a two-shot, but his penchant for color filters (lots of golden haze) grows wearisome. Heck, this is Tampa, where the ubiquitous sunshine turns everything into KodaChrome. Commercially, this film has a lot to teach the industry, but it holds a very minor place on the Soderbergh C.V.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: A low-budget winner from an earlier era, LIFEGUARD/’76, looks at similar issues, though thankfully without the yellow filters. And while it only has one-third the talent seen here, it gets a lot more out of the situation. Though nobody’s got a tuckus to match CT.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Why bring back the ‘70s Warner Bros logo (designed by Saul Bass) when you’re not doing a period pic? (Then again, the film might have worked better as a retro ‘70s thing.)