MAGIC MIKE

The first hour is a silly, shameless romp — COCKTAIL meets FLASHDANCE. Then the plot kicks in, and you might as well rename it SHOWBOYS. The undeniable charms of sizzling young men (and one ageless Adonis) with sicker bodies than Olympic swimmers fulfilling the dreams of the secretarial set at a Chippendales-type nightclub work beautifully as long as director Soderbergh keeps his film about nothing more than the depiction of a world just barely outside social norms, yet completely likable because the characters seem like such stand-up guys. That first hour is the very definition of a feel-good movie, and I remember thinking: I’m enjoying this so much, please Steven, don’t fuck it up with “complications”. Alas, the screenplay sees fit to darken the story with drugs, turning the movie’s male ingenue, Alex Pettyfer, from lovable loser to overconfident asshole in the space of a couple pages, leading to superfluous violence, unconvincing sacrifices, and a fatal change in tone. Through it all, Channing Tatum proves yet again that he can take the thinnest material and flesh it out with the flesh and talent a benevolent God gave him. He never overplays or hogs a scene; neither does he go the easy route of the “strong, silent type”. I would go so far as to say that Tatum and another, very different actor just one year his junior, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, are the two most promising of their generation. — Jeff Schultz

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