Who would have thought that The Avengers would get competition this summer from some beefcake in breakaway pants?
Steven Soderbergh's frothy and fun Magic Mike, from a script by Reid Carolin that's loosely based on star Channing Tatum's pre- Step Up life as a male stripper, doesn't offer any particularly dazzling insight into the psyche of the exotic dancer. There are no debates about exploitation and objectification.
It barrels through every cliché in the book -- Tatum's title character is really just doing this to fund his real dream: crafting handmade furniture! -- and it wastes much of the talent of the supporting cast.
But somehow, it all works, thanks to Soderbergh's deft touch -- it's certainly his most crowd-pleasing and least annoying film since Ocean's Thirteen.
There's also a sly, magnetic performance from Matthew McConaughey as the aging-but-still-got-it Tampa strip-club owner. Even Tatum, who can be as wooden as a petrified forest, seems wonderfully at ease -- probably because he can just be himself and not have to worry too much about all that pesky acting stuff.
His character, Mike, is certainly ambitious. In addition to stripping and becoming the next Charles Eames, he does roofing to make ends meet. It's on this job where he comes across the aimless, troubled Adam (Alex Pettyfer). Of course, Mike takes Adam under his well-developed wing and introduces him to a world where dress ties on bare chests is considered a good look.
Of course, Alex is a natural, makes it rain dollar bills, impresses the boss (McConaughey) and is immediately added to the lineup. Of course, Alex has an attractive, straight-arrow sister (newcomer Cody Horn) whom Mike wants to impress. And, of course, Alex's past comes back to haunt him.
All the plot points are punctuated by the guys' gyrating dance routines, which are both funny and surprisingly athletic. Certainly, in a summer where all the testosterone talk may be about the meaning of Prometheus, lots of female moviegoers may be arguing over which of Magic Mike's men has the best rear end.
On that point, the rest of the name-brand strippers -- Joe Manganiello ( True Blood), Matt Bomer ( White Collar), Adam Rodriguez ( CSI: Miami) -- don't have much to do except strut around half-naked. We learn absolutely nothing about them.
But teaching us something is not high on the list of Magic Mike's priorities.
Unless you consider learning how to stuff as many dollars as possible in your thong a life skill.
Cary Darling, 817-390-7571