My first impression of Magic Mike while viewing its first, and admittedly very captivating stripping scene involving Channing Tatum suavely dancing to It's Raining Men with a bevy of other chiseled men with six packs in perfect complement behind him is hard to describe.
Perhaps the best and safest thing to say is that my face probably went through a series of expressions including amazement, delight, slight embarrassment, outright blushing, and then back to amazement, but not necessarily in that order.
This obviously has something to do with the undeniable voyeurism that is inherent in watching a film that initially seems to be just about the glamorous lives of male strippers living and working in Tampa, Florida.
However, once one catches on that this is also a Steve Soderbergh film, enlightenment dawns. There has to be more to it than that, one thinks, and there is.
While not on the same and exceptional level of Soderbergh's 1980s masterpiece Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Magic Mike does emulate its coolness, its naturalistic style, and a measure of its controversial subject. Centred loosely around Channing Tatum (who plays Mike the main man in the strip club's ensemble pieces) who had a stint as a stripper when he was a young, struggling actor, the film chronicles the events of a few months one summer when Mike takes an aimless but handsome young man, Adam (Alex Pettyfer), under his wing.
At first Adam only does odd jobs around the strip club, but due to a sudden lull in the program, Mike and the club's ridiculously tanned owner, Dallas, who could only be played by Matthew McConaughey, push him onto the stage, half as a joke, and half to test his nerve.
The new boy is a hit, and thus begin the adventures of Mike and Adam, overlooked by Adam's pretty but uptight sister Brooke (Cody Horn), with whom he lives, sleeping on her sofa and generally behaving like the epitome of a young man who suddenly finds himself in cash and surrounded by adoring women.
Irritating as Pettyfer's character is, Tatum's is incredibly well drawn. Tatum, who has initially wasted himself on films like GI Joe (2009) and The Vow (2012) has recently come into his own with the buddy cup comedy 21 Jump Street (also 2012) and now with Magic Mike, showing unexpected nuance in his chiseled face and using his astonishingly refined dance moves to heart-stopping effect.
Soderbergh's style has always had a light and easy touch, and so too does this film. Like Sex, Lies, and Videotape which also deals with a number of intense, and controversial themes, it is also, more often than not, very funny, and the characters are full of charm and wit.
There is an unforgettable scene when Brooke goes to the club, invited by her brother Adam, and stays to watch Mike's number. Inadvertently attracted and reluctantly fascinated by his undeniable appeal on the stage, her face is a play of emotions, until she leaves hurriedly unable to sustain her cool in the charged atmosphere.
While not one of the fall's heavy hitters and perhaps not an award contender either, Magic Mike will keep you in your seat with its more obvious appeal, its subtle depths and over all the immense likeability of its main character, Magic Mike.