Channing Tatum in Soderbergh's Magic Mike: wet, wild and naked, with eyes on the bottom line 

The Dudebro Experience

The Dudebro Experience

There are already reports that someone wants to put Magic Mike — Steven Soderbergh's flaccid Top Gun-ification of Floridian male-stripper life — on Broadway. So spins the circle of multiplex life in a summer when Foreigner keeps turning up, cockroach-like, on soundtracks. Stage hit Rock of Ages just punched Mick Jones' big-screen ticket, while Magic Mike goes out on "Feels Like the First Time." Insert "Double Vision" joke here.

You wouldn't finger nerdy Soderbergh as making the kind of picture that sets a theater full of women hooting. But this is the director's least cerebral exercise since The Girlfriend Experience, and even that dull boner killer labored to camouflage porn star Sasha Grey's nonperformance with a wash of the director's glitzy moves. This is Soderbergh back in self-conscious genre-slumming mode, working the mainstream with all the calculation of a Chippendale's dancer dry-humping a bachelorette party.

From Channing Tatum's thick-necked title character on down the dude line, Magic Mike is wetter and way nakeder than Girlfriend (or any other Soderbergh title). In fact, it's more comfortable with bare skin than the average R-rated summer movie — including that of dripping-slick, Navy SEAL-buff club owner Matthew McConaughey, doing an odd and fascinating turn that suggests Sam Elliott's grizzled Road House sage recast for vintage Cassavetes. Sometimes that comfort works to the movie's advantage. The moment it takes to register that the object in one blurred foreground shot is a penis in a vacuum pump is the beat that separates wit from crassness.

But Magic Mike is more comfortable with its chiseled dude bodies (and the occasional fleeting breast) than with drama. Tatum says this is rather Disney-esque compared with his actual few months as a Sunshine State strip-club wiggler, and his war stories are probably entertaining when he tells them one on one. As it stands, though, this ambling backstage musical doesn't have much reason to exist, except as another airing of Soderbergh's preoccupation with wealth management versus wage slavery (see Traffic, Erin Brockovich, the Ocean's trilogy) disguised as popcorn entertainment. This time it doesn't work. Long before the saccharine, quasi-Sixteen Candles last shot, Magic Mike's glitter trail goes cold.



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