By MICHAEL WALTERS
“Magic Mike” is an exercise in low-class tawdry exploitation from high class director Stephen Soderberg. Although the trailers make it look like “Showgirls” in a banana hammock, the finished film is a little bit more than that, just try not to think about it too hard.
Channing Tatum is the proverbial stripper with a heart of gold. He strips to pay the bills, but what he really wants to do is (try not to laugh) design furniture. He takes a young aimless college dropout under his wing and introduces him to the nightlife where a good night involves having your thong stuffed with singles.
I’m surprised as anyone but Channing Tatum is beginning to grow on me. He’s not a terribly gifted actor, but he has a sort of lunkheaded earnestness about him. He’s got a good-natured charm, and genuinely seems to want to do a good job. In the end that makes him hard to dislike.
He gets considerable comic relief from Matthew McConaughey in a performance verging on the edge of self-parody. He plays a club owner with a flair for showmanship who spends more time with his shirt off than Tatum does. One can almost see McConaughey scanning the page, seeing little to no shirt required and signing up right then and there.
And while Tatum generally has any number of hookups at his disposal on any given night, he seems to want an escape back to normalcy by wooing a medical assistant who happens to be the sister of a fellow stripper. She doesn’t approve of it, but that attracts him because I think deep down he doesn’t approve of his lifestyle either.
The simple story keeps getting ripped out of its unseemly foundation by the craftsmanship surrounding it. The stripping scenes are more burlesque vaudeville than unvarnished sexuality. Soderberg bathes the screen in browns to give every scene the feel of an early morning that comes far too soon after a long night. It’s a trip into debauchery, sanitized for your protection.