Shy 14-year-old Duncan goes on summer vacation with his mother, her overbearing boyfriend, and her boyfriend's daughter. Having a rough time fitting in, Duncan finds an unexpected friend in Owen, manager of the Water Wizz water park.
Mike Lane is a thirty-year old living in Tampa,Florida. By day he works as a roofer whilst at night, as Magic Mike, he is the star attraction of the Kings of Tampa, a group of male strippers. Secretly he wants out in order to further a projected furniture-making business but his credit rating precludes a bank loan for this despite his considerable savings. One night Adam, a teen-aged work-mate of Mike, follows him to the club and, when one of the acts is unable to go on,he is prevailed upon to strip - becoming a huge hit. However success goes to his head and his foolish actions not only threaten to jeopardize his sister Brooke's relationship with Mike but Mike's ambitions as well. Written by
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Continuing his endless refusal to play by the rules laid out before him, Steven Soderbergh's latest film goes to a place where most Oscar-winning directors wouldn't dream -- the male stripper movie. Based loosely on the experiences of a young Channing Tatum, who stars in and helped produce the picture, Magic Mike is an insider look into an all-male revue, where the abs are chiseled and the dreams are big. Working off a surprisingly well-balanced and intelligent screenplay from first-timer Reid Carolin, Soderbergh initially presents the world of Tatum's titular character as an alarmingly fun time, loaded with money, women and a job where you get to be on stage to the delight of all.
The entry point into Mike's world comes in the eyes of the young and unmotivated Adam (Alex Pettyfer), who is brought into the club and shown the joy of it all by Mike. Taken under Mike's wing, and given employment by the owner and master of ceremonies Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), Adam is quickly thrust into the spotlight of this world and presented with a wealth of sexual and financial opportunities previously unavailable to him. This world is a blast at first, with wildly entertaining montages of the men performing their acts on stage transitioning between Adam and Mike becoming best friends and spending their days soaking in the sun, earning cash and being surrounded by attractive women.
It's easy to see how one could be seduced into this lifestyle, but the genius of Soderbergh's direction and Carolin's script is in the subtle ways that the darkness begins to creep in. Magic Mike avoids the typical beats of its premise by never hitting too hard on any of the plot points, letting the descent of these characters feel much more organic as opposed to something that was designed from the start. Along with impressively natural dialogue, Carolin never hits you over the head with the kind of danger that this world puts Adam in and the allure of it is remains front and center even when the risks start to grow heavier.
One of the many fine representations of this conflicting nature comes in the form of Dallas himself, played to perfection by McConaughey. The actor seduces the audience, and Adam, right out of the gate and yet there is always something lurking just underneath that doesn't sit quite right. Dallas is constantly in control of his employees, taking charge of them just as he takes charge of the women in his audience, and McConaughey captures this with a reptilian charm that ropes you in rather than biting your hand.
Adam is pulled into this world and the danger only becomes real after its potentially too late for him to get out, while Mike is struggling with moral conflicts of his own and constantly striving for a way to get out of the lifestyle that he makes look so appealing. Soderbergh succeeds marvelously in making the world of Magic Mike all glitter and glam on the surface, only making you aware of the seedy underbelly if you're willing to look deep enough into it. The story takes traditional paths, but its the atmosphere that sets it apart from those that it could have felt familiar to.
There's a naturalism to it all that is impressive, feeling fun without ever glamming it up to an unrealistic level. Magic Mike never feels like a Hollywood version of the stripper story, but rather like an authentic account -- no doubt aided this execution by the life experience that Tatum brought to the project. For someone like Soderbergh who constantly works against the path most directors of his stature go down, nothing is ever really unexpected, but Magic Mike is further proof that he is the most fearless and versatile American director working today.
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