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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, July 23, 2014

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Channing Tatum and company take it off in "Magic Mike," in theaters now.
Channing Tatum and company take it off in "Magic Mike," in theaters now.

"Magic Mike" makes for a superficial thrill

Even though "Magic Mike" only recently started its serious advertising, buzz has long been circulating about Steven Soderbergh's muscle-bound male stripper comedy/drama. I mean, it's not hard to drum up attention for a movie with a main plot of "Channing Tatum takes his clothes off for money."
It's old hat for him, since it's relatively common knowledge at this point that he used to strip before hitting it big in Hollywood. But, it's big news for lusty admirers who didn't get the chance to watch him get down and dirty during his g-string days.

Tatum plays the titular Mike, a male stripper trying to make good on his dream of starting up his own furniture company. He's been saving up cash for years from his laundry list of odd jobs, but his bad credit is keeping him stuck at Xquisite Male Revue. Mike's far from struggling as the club's main act, though. He rakes in more than his fair share of crumpled bills, both during his solo shows and flanked by his fellow dancers (Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, Adam Rodriguez and Kevin Nash).

The audience gets in on the action when Mike meets up with a financially struggling kid on one of his construction jobs (Alex Pettyfer). Seeing an opportunity to recruit new talent, Mike and Xquisite's manager (Matthew McConaughey) decide to take Adam under the club's wing and show him the ropes – and the assless chaps.

Unfortunately, anyone who's seen more than a handful of movies will know exactly what's going to happen right out of the gate. You know what will happen to Mike's protege, who stands in awe of the "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll" lifestyle he can suddenly more than afford. You know what'll happen to Mike's precious nest egg that he's been saving to start his own business. And you know exactly where he'll end up (and who he'll end up with) by the time the credits roll.

The plot is nothing new, and the characters, while entertaining, don't bring anything original to the table either. Aside from Mike himself, it's actually hard to work out which of the secondary characters the audience should be paying attention to at the outset, since they all seem to run together without much explanation. Interestingly, the dialogue is very casually scripted. Conversations between characters occasionally lacked the polish of standard Hollywood back-and-forths, but somehow it worked – for me, at least. The no-frills, realistic interactions made for a nice contrast against the loud, wild theatrics of the club.

Lest anyone be disappointed, "Magic Mike" does make sure to give the boys plenty of screen time (or rather, stage time) to shake their moneymakers, aiming more for cheesy than smoldering. Scantily clad cowboy shootouts, naughty firemen and cops, jungle men and dirty EMTs help lighten the mood, which – when not onstage – is largely focused on the "dark side" of the industry.

McConaughey is pitch perfect practically playing himself as the laid-back, oft-shirtless club manager, and yes, Tatum still has the moves. But, without an original angle on a tired storyline, "Magic Mike" is only as good as its Xquisite choreography.

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