On a chilly Monday night, with a free Redbox code in hand, I told my wife, Savannah, that she could pick any movie she wanted and we’d watch it. She chose “Magic Mike.”
“Magic Mike” is about male strippers. While your mind might instantly go to the seedy, raunchy and potentially disgusting gutters of society, this film didn’t go as far as your imagination just did.
Yes, there is one particular shot I could have lived my entire life without, but even those few seconds aren’t as awful as they could have been. There are a couple occasions of brief female nudity, too, but also not as much as you’d think with this kind of movie.
If there is anything extreme, it’s the drinking and drug use. The characters do a lot of both — and generally feel the consequences of it.
So those are the things that might keep someone from watching “Magic Mike.” What’s great is that those few items are quickly overshadowed by a dynamic cast and amazing cinematography.
The story starts when Mike meets Adam at a construction site. Mike is a stripper, but also has a few side businesses he’s trying to get off the ground. Adam is a 19-year-old college washout who lives with his sister. The two become friends after Mike brings Adam to the show and Adam is thrust into the spotlight.
The story is based on the real life experiences of star Channing Tatum (those darn “Step Up” movies, “G.I. Joe” and recently announced Sexiest Man Alive 2012). As the title character, Tatum is charismatic in a way missing from his previous films. He’s smart, funny and a heck of a dancer. Mike, as can be expected, has some problems with women but has the classic heart of gold generally reserved for the female versions of his character. I don’t know if this performance would warrant a trip back through Tatum’s previous work, but it does make him more interesting to watch in the future.
If anyone steals a scene from Tatum, it’s Matthew McConaughey as club owner Dallas (even male strippers get named after cities). He’s hilarious and dirty and you just know something isn’t quite right with him.
While the characters are busy living their lives, the film itself is a beauty to watch. The club scenes are lit so that you know you are in a club, but unlike other films, it never becomes so cloaked in shadows that you can’t see what is happening. We don’t get a lot of exterior shots, but those we do highlight the “other coast” aspect of the Tampa Bay location. It has beaches but for some reason just isn’t as spectacular as Miami. The homes and apartment interiors have a mix of natural light (best used in Mike’s house) and the kind of cheap lamps that broke people use to light their crappy apartments (Adam’s sister’s cheap bungalow, for example). The contrast of light and dark becomes a character. Some of the brightest scenes are in the place where it should be darkest. Just like the people who inhabit the film.
“Magic Mike” is the best kind of human drama. These seemingly abnormal characters turn into real people with real problems. They laugh, get into trouble, fall in love, and do their best to make it in the world. The film never goes as far as we think it would and that makes it something unique to behold.
“Magic Mike” 8 out of 10
• Backstage Pass is a new blog on www.yakima-herald.com covering pop culture from Hollywood to your backyard. T.J. Tranchell, a freelance journalist and Herald-Republic customer service clerk, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can visit his horror-themed blog at www.warning-signs.net.