It's hard not to admire a filmmaker like Steven Soderbergh. He's never let himself become pigeonholed. He's not afraid to take on any genre. Yet, whether it's action like with his recent 'Haywire,' or in this case a dark comedy about male strippers, he's able to create a very Soderbergh feel. The way he positions his camera and the way he's able to capture completely natural-sounding dialogue give each one of his movie's a very distinct atmosphere.
On paper 'Magic Mike' appears to a misguided answer to 'Showgirls.' If you had no idea Soderbergh was involved, all you'd see is names like Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Matt Bomer, and Matthew McConaughey. That's enough to turn just about every guy off of this movie. Knowing that these six-pack sporting actors spend most of their time in the movie taking off their clothes as they dance to the raging hits on the latest Jock Jams record doesn't help matters much. Admit it, when this movie started getting advertised all anyone imagined was theaters full of women using "girl's night out" as an excuse to see some sexy pecs and abs.
See, this is what Soderbergh does so well. Even though this movie was advertised entirely as a straightforward movie focusing on male strippers, he was able to craft a completely different film. The studio had to draw in the target audience with trailers that focused on the stripping, but Soderbergh isn't really worried about that part of the story. Yes, the dance numbers take up quite a bit of running time, but they're there for more than just ogling.
Mike (Channing Tatum) is a self-starting entrepreneur who works three jobs just so he can save up enough money to start a custom furniture business. Most of his money comes from yanking off his clothes in front of screaming women. Adam (Alex Pettyfer) is a reckless teenager who Mike takes under his wing and shows him the ropes of male stripping. Dallas (Matthew McConaughey) is the leader of the group. You've never seen McConaughey quite like this. He's off-the-walls crazy and reminds us just how good an actor he can be when he's not looking to simply cash a paycheck in another lame romantic comedy.
What starts as a jovial dark comedy about the wondrous world of male stripping viewed through the eyes of Adam quickly turns into a cautionary tale of excess. Mike is sure of what he wants in his life, but Adam isn't which means he's willing to try absolutely anything. Mike feels responsible for the kid and it ends up biting him in the end.
The place where the movie really excels is the way Soderbergh films conversations. Instead of going with the back-and-forth camera shots of each person, he leaves the camera back a ways. Taking in the entire scene as the people on screen casually talk to one another. I'm impressed with the way Soderbergh apparently lets his actors ad-lib, creating a very natural environment, but still getting across the heft of Reid Carolin's script.
Honsetly, I didn't think I'd like 'Magic Mike' at all. However, Soderbergh has surprised me again. Earlier this year he blew me away with his take on the hardcore action genre, and now he's shown what he can do with a seemingly silly premise.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Magic Mike' is a Warner Bros. release. It comes in a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack that also includes an UltraViolet Digital Copy of the movie. The movie is packaged in a standard double disc hub keepcase. The movie is housed on a 50GB disc. There is a slipcover included but it only includes the same cover art as the case. Finally, the release is region free.
As much as I love Soderbergh's films and camera work, the amount of yellow filtering in this movie is enough to drive anyone up the wall. Whenever the guys aren't dancing around in their dimly lit dance hall, the entire movie is bathed in a yellow tinge that makes you feel like the camera is dirty, or you're watching the movie through sunglasses.
Soderbergh filmed the movie entirely digital on Red Epic cameras, giving it a very clean and crisp sheen. Although, many of the draw backs to full digital aren't noticed here. For example, blacks and shadows are never flat or indecisive. On the contrary, shadows are bold detail even in the darkest of scenes is quite striking. And even with all the lights swinging around and flashing on stage as the guys flex their muscles; there isn't any hint of blocking.
Besides the yellow-dominated scenes, skin tones appear natural even under the hot stage lights. Detail shines (literally, seeing that most of the guys stay oiled up the entire movie). Every bulge, yes even the ones down below, are visible on camera. Muscles ripple, stubble is clear, and hair can be seen in individual strands. In spite of Soderbergh's weird color filter choices, 'Magic Mike' looks great in HD.
Even more impressive is the club-centric audio that pumps out each and every thumping beat in high-def sound. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track really rocks. As the guys blast through songs like "Gimme What You Got" and "Sassy Sexy Wiggle," while they even mix in a bass-laden remix of "It's Raining Men," the sub-woofer works overtime to keep up. You'll feel like you just stepped into a club when you listen to this movie on your system.
The major component to 'Magic Mike's audio presentation is the heavy, solid bass produced in every dance scene. It thumps and booms its way through the songs as women cheer the men on. The screams from the female crowd can be heard distinctly in the rear speakers as it fills up the soundfield.
Dialogue is clear and intelligible which is nice since many of the scenes feature people talking over each other and whispered off-the-cuff lines. Pans are smooth and dynamics are engaging. This is a great sounding audio mix, but only if you enjoy the heavy beats of stripper songs.
Believe me, I didn't think I'd being able to tolerate 'Magic Mike,' much less enjoy it. Steven Soderbergh can craft a sly character drama out of any genre, and he's done it again here. He's created a darkly humorous cautionary tale where a much-maligned actor like Channing Tatum can actually do what he does best – dance and be funny. If you weren't going to give this movie a chance I'd urge you to give it a shot, especially if you're a Soderbergh fan. It's got his fingerprints all over it. Recommended.