Posted October 28, 2012 by William Dunmyer in Drama

Magic Mike: Mildly Charming

“Magic Mike” is mildly charming, but that’s about it. If you like seeing a lot of tight male buttocks, there’s plenty of that. Among the actors, Matthew McConaughey is the stand-out. He gives a strong, sad performance as the aging founder of a male stripper revue realizing that his life is probably not going to amount to much.

This is turning out to be quite a year for McConaughey, who has given one strong supporting performance after another. (Don’t miss his work in “Bernie” and “Killer Joe.”)

But the movie is centered on Mike, played by the astoundingly mediocre Channing Tatum. Tatum is great to look at. He does have a body that is almost other-worldly in its beauty. He looks like an ancient Greek statue come to life. He does make for an energetic and creative stripper, too. There are many stripping sequences in “Magic Mike,” and his are the best by far. But when it comes to acting, Tatum is out of his depth. I get the feeling that he just hasn’t developed much of an inner life. The key to acting, at least in my book, is having a deep inner life of one’s own, which allows you to construct an inner life for your characters. When Tatum acts, all he has is his body.

That appears to be fine for director Steven Soderbergh, who wanted to make a television-level movie. Soderbergh in the last 15 years or so has become something of a zombie filmmaker. He roams around in a bit of a stupor, eating movie genres. One at a time, he’s going to consume every one of them. This time, his objective was to make a TV-level movie for semi-educated housewives, and he pulls it off admirably well. He has learned how to do this genre, meeting his objective.

Soderbergh stoops to conquer again. He’s become expert at doing movies below him, turning into more of an expert movie technician than an artist. He doesn’t seem to have much to say anymore.

English actor Alex Pettyfer plays a novice stripper whom Tatum takes under his wing. It’s too soon to tell, but there’s a chance Pettyfer could turn into a fairly serious actor. He appears still to be just enjoying himself and reveling in the attention being directed at him. (Everybody wants to sleep with me now. I’m a god!) But I sense something deeper in him that I hope he cultivates. I hope he doesn’t turn into another Channing Tatum. If I were going to give him advice, I’d say get some serious dramatic acting lessons — some Literature classes are also not a bad idea. That’s how you develop your inner life. Ask Sean Penn for advice, not Channing Tatum. Or Steven Soderbergh.

William Dunmyer

William Dunmyer is a lifelong cinephile who fell in love with movies at about the age of 5. He lives in New York City.