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From Under A Rock: Magic Mike

July 7, 2018 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
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From Under A Rock: Magic Mike  


Last year I (Michael) was reading a Rotten Tomatoes article (or something like that) that listed movies that were better than what you thought you knew about them. This week’s pick was the one out of the bunch I ended up watching and it blew me away.

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week Aaron chose Rear Window. This week Michael takes Aaron out from under the proverbial rock to show him Magic Mike.

Magic Mike
Released: June 29th, 2012
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Written by: Reid Carolin
Channing Tatum as Michael “Magic Mike” Lane
Alex Pettyfer as Adam
Cody Horn as Brooke
Matthew McConaughey as Dallas
Also starring: Olivia Munn, Joe Manganiello, Kevin Nash, & Gabriel Iglesias

Michael Ornelas: I wanted to show Aaron Magic Mike because I wasn’t sure if we had preconceived notions about it…but if he did, I wanted him to be just as blown away as I was when I first saw it.

Aaron Hubbard: I certainly wasn’t interested in Magic Mike when it was first released, but I’ve also heard good things from critics I respect (like Leon Thomas of Renegade Cut), so I think I expected this to be pretty good. But it still surprised me.
Just Enough Glamorization
Michael: On the surface, I expected a movie for chicks to get their fix of watching lots of ripped, good-looking dudes take their clothes off and dance. I had no idea that we would get to dive into the sad, drug-fueled, and dangerous realities of some of the personalities that get into the line of work that Mike excels at. I can speak from second-hand experience as I’m good friends with a former Chippendales dancer…he used to go nuts.

Aaron: I found it interesting that the first trailer for Magic Mike focused on the romance between Mike and Brook and was mostly ignored. Then the marketing shifted to the strippers and piqued a lot more interest from women and also gay men. I think that speaks to something about us; people like movies with simple hooks. Jaws is “that shark movie”, Back to the Future is “that time travel movie”, etc. Magic Mike is “that male stripper movie”, but it’s actually about bigger ideas and focused on characters. So when you think about, it’s not all that different from most movies. It just has a gimmick that is decidedly not targeting the straight male demographic. Which is ironic, since the movie is mostly about straight men, their egos, insecurities, dreams and life decisions.

Oh, and maybe it’s just me, but I actually enjoyed the stripping scenes. Channing’s got some serious moves and I appreciate that level of talent. Don’t @me.

Michael: Haha, yeah the dance scenes are incredibly well-done. It’s my understanding that Channing Tatum actually did some dancing before he was an actor so he got to put that to good use. It’s weird…being a wrestling fan, I actually saw a lot of similarities in the way they treat their gimmicks and hook a crowd. They just have very different desired outcomes (I feel like I can safely say that most wrestlers aren’t trying to arouse their audience?). Regardless, I loved the darker aspects of this movie and thought it did a good deep dive into other distractions that come with the business of stripping.

Aaron: Some wrestlers were going for arousal. Ring rats, dude. Rock ‘n’ Roll Express sure intended to arouse that audience. And Flair, and Insert long digression here
Objectification and Intimacy
Aaron: There’s quite a bit going in this movie, but I think the strongest theme is about how Mike arrived at this career choice and how it affects him. Mike is an artist, a man who wants to leave his mark on the world through one-of-a-kind furniture pieces, but he can’t get the funding to start that business because of his credit history. I might not be able to relate to being a stripper, but I can relate to that problem. Mike is stripping because it’s relatively easy money, but it’s also something he clearly enjoys and uses as a vehicle to express his emotions. And why wouldn’t he enjoy being loved by all those gorgeous women who are enamored with him? Well, maybe because they view him as a sex object and not viable dating material. He’s traded the intimacy of a real relationship for shallow affection from dozens of women. And all of that is genuinely compelling character stuff, and reminds me of The Wrestler more than pretty much any other movie.

Michael: Huh…despite making the connection to wrestling, I never thought to compare it to that movie but you’re spot on. Everything in the movie feels like Mike is trying to push forward in a healthier direction (not that sex work is an objectively unhealthy thing), but can’t because all the relationships he’s formed are hollow. He’s been hustling as long as we know that even though it’s clear that he’s got a good heart and good intentions, he doesn’t earn our trust. And that makes it really sad to watch as we see how it hinders him. My heart was breaking for him when he tried to get the loan at the bank. He works hard to have money, but he can’t use it to go “legit”, so to speak.

Aaron: I think one of the cool aspects of this movie is that it actually makes the life of female strippers (i.e. most strippers) more relatable to the male audience. Mike doesn’t hate being a stripper, he’s good at it, he enjoys the money he makes off of it. But it’s also not something he wants to be doing all his life, and it’s making it difficult for him to find genuine romantic partners or establish a long term financial plan. These are things that female strippers have to struggle with, often as single mothers. And if this movie helps someone to perhaps empathize with and understand the industry and similar industries (like wrestling, for example), I think that is a win for the movie.
Adam & Brooke
Michael: My biggest complaint with the movie is the handling of the characters Adam & Brooke. They’re brother and sister, and after meeting Mike, Adam is thrust into the world of dancing while Brooke is the cliched “I’m resistant but win me over” love story. I disliked Adam because I was supposed to dislike Adam; he was too immature to control himself and ends up way in over his head and never really redeems himself. One of the last shots we get of him is when he’s overdosed in the back of Brooke’s car. He’s back dancing at the new club a little later, but that’s pretty much the end of his arc. He’s a punk. Brooke, on the other hand, just felt like every Julia Stiles movie from the late 90s/early 00s. I get how she contrasted Mike and gave him an outsider’s perspective, but the actress wasn’t particularly stealing the show and it just felt too expected.

Aaron: Brooke strikes me as the prototypical “functional love interest”. In terms of story, she works. She’s there to confront Mike about his flaws and to help him grow as a person. I especially like how Soderbergh rarely has the tension be explicit, so much as he allows the audience to understand why Brooke (and also Joanna) don’t find Mike a suitable romantic interest at this point in his life. But Brooke herself is not interesting; we don’t remember what she does for a living, we barely meet her friends or know anything about her as a person. She’s only there to serve a function in Mike’s story, and that’s always disappointing to me. I feel like the movie could have afforded her a little more development and maybe even given her something to contrast with Mike more, like financial stability. Or maybe a genuinely healthy relationship with that boyfriend who shows up for one scene. Just an idea.

Michael: Yeah apparently she had a boyfriend through the whole movie until the final scene. You said it best — she was just a function of Mike’s story and that’s my biggest critique of an otherwise fantastic film.

Aaron: Overall, I really enjoyed this movie. Some parts of it fall a bit flat (Brooke’s less than developed character), but some parts of it really knock it out of the park. Soderbergh is a director who always makes good movies, and is especially good at making them feel real and well… not like movies. I’ll probably watch this again and I’ll catch the sequel at least once.


Michael: Despite some hollow character work with some of the cast, this is really an excellent movie that doesn’t take its subject matter lightly despite being an inherently “fun” world. I appreciated everything Channing Tatum did in this movie and also loved the editing choice to make the color palette drab everywhere except for in the strip club. It’s very clear that competent filmmakers were at work on this project.


Aaron: Channing Tatum is an actor who has delivered a lot more than I expected him to.

Michael: I’ve never disliked him in anything.

What’s your favorite movie about a struggling performer?

Next week:

Aaron: Well, I know you’ve been waiting on this one for a while, so I won’t keep you in suspense much longer.
Michael: I’m going to cry so hard.

Aaron: Yeah, probably. I know I will.

What is the best “threequel” of all time?

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The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Magic Mike caught both of us by surprise, but perhaps it shouldn't have. Steven Soderbergh is almost always great, and this story about a performer struggling to move forward in his life is a classic Hollywood narrative. It's just not usually about a male stripper. If you watched this movie for the strippers, you'll probably have a good time, but you'll also find a compelling character piece to go along with it. Magic Mike didn't have to be a great movie, but it is and that's pretty awesome.