You’ve got to be on bath salts if you don’t already know that Magic Mike is the new Steven Soderbergh film about male strippers, based on head hunk Channing Tatum’s experiences in the business. Everyone knows this, and there are no spoilers, really, because we could tell you everything that happens in the movie without ruining your enjoyment. So: Mike (Tatum) brings in newbie Adam (Alex Pettyfer) to Tampa male strip club Xquisite, run by senior stripper/manager/owner Dallas (Matthew McConaughey). Hijinks ensue as Mike crushes on Adam’s sister Brooke (Cody Horn, rivaled only by Sasha Grey in acting ability) and tries to start his own business, Adam gets a case of babystripper hubris, and Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello) swings his namesake around. For our beloved Tits and Sass readership, Kat and Bubbles gladly dragged themselves to a screening to give you our stripper-biz-centric thoughts. We’ll leave the analysis to other reviewers, because what we are interested in are the elements that relate to stripping, not Soderbergh’s commentary on capitalism or his orangey color schemes.
Bubbles: How excited were we to go see this movie? I’ll readily admit that we went in rooting for a good time, as did the rest of the audience. It reminded me of being the stripper at a hyped bachelor party where they’d throw money at you and holler at the simplest flex of a buttcheek.
Kat: There were women who got to the theater at 4:30 in the morning and waited all day in 104 degree heat, essentially risking their lives. The excitement in the room was tactile. I thought some penis goggles would have completed the giant bachelorette party sisterhood vibe, but Magic Mike turned out to be such a blast that I didn’t even need phallic accessories to enhance the experience. Not to mention that I would hate to wear anything that would potentially obscure my view.
Bubbles: No kidding. What a visual delight!
Kat: What this movie lacked in plot, it made up for in amazing choreography and tearaway pants. Pants that disappear with a single tug would be the Magic Mike drinking game cue.
Bubbles: So many tearaway pants. I can’t imagine what the Velcro budget was. I wonder if Matthew McConaughey took his pants home with him.
Kat: Dallas Rising is the role McConaughey was born to play (except for maybe a crooked lawyer who takes the “no shirt, no shoes, no service” rule all the way to Supreme Court). It wouldn’t be surprising to learn that he supplied all of his Crocodile Dundee-esque gear and Asian robes himself, got high in his trailer, stumbled out and simply ad-libbed all his lines.
Bubbles: You don’t think Soderbergh wrote “All right, all right, all right?” Well, maybe. I am going on the record now that if McConaughey is not nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for this role, it will be the yank job of the year. He completely nailed the part, playing it like the sleazy stripper uncle figure who will take care of you until something better or more important grabs his attention.
Kat: Or until you gain weight or turn 25.
Bubbles: He’s not quite Gina-Gershon-in-Showgirls level scheming, but definitely the most hustling one in the flick. I dropped an egg when I saw Joe Manganiello sewing a gold lamé thong. And Richie’s amazing dressing room prep shot is one of the most beautiful pieces of cinematography I’ve ever seen.
Kat: Just brilliant.
Bubbles: How many times did I say “HE IS SO HOT” during the movie?
Kat: I don’t know, but I kept wondering what you were writing down when nothing was happening and then your notes were basically: “Joe Manganiello is so hot. All work and no play makes Bubbles a dull girl.”
Bubbles: His opening shadow dance number, the one in the GIF above with the swinging cock? LOUD SQUEALS.
Kat: Was that his opening number? The dancing was like sex. I can’t remember the chronology of it all, just specific highlights.
Bubbles: Hee. I have a vague idea from my notes, which also remind me that the big group opening number used a dubstep remix of “It’s Raining Men.” Very 2012.
Kat: So now. I found some of the patriotic and military scenes really subversive and anti-establishment, actually.
Bubbles: Because they are sexualizing the military?
Kat: Maybe the fact that it was kind of homoerotic? But not even that, it just felt like a big “fuck you” to the government. The saluting followed by machine gun cock gestures was pretty irreverent. If dropping a flag on the ground is bad, sewing it into a thong isn’t respectful either. Matthew McConaughey as a crazy-eyed Uncle Sam felt straight out of 1970’s psychedelic imagery.
Bubbles: Totally, he was like a Phineas Freak Uncle Sam! You know, no one else is going to do a critique of the actual dancing the way we will. Without spoiling too much, I want to say that I think it’s completely awesome that they chose “Pony” for Magic Mike’s signature number.
Kat: It’s a lot of peoples’ signature number. But yeah, it made me squeal and clap, like every other lady in the theater. It’s good that they stuck with the classics. I loved how it’s basically a parody of itself. I mean, McConaughey PLAYS A DJEMBE at one point. It kind of reminded me of the Final Destination movies in the way that it’s so over the top that it transcends campiness.
Bubbles: Not just a djembe drum! He also carries bongos WHILE SAYING “All right, all right, all right” when the group has their big Fourth of July party.
Kat: What do you want to bet he said “All right, all right, all right” when the cops came to his house for disturbing his neighbors with his naked bongo playing?
Bubbles: That’s a dead certainty. One thing about male strippers: Dallas Rising gets older, they stay the same age! You just rotate fresh ones into the fireman/Tarzan/cowboy costumes. It was so impressive how they nailed about every masculine stripper stereotype. It’d be like watching the rotation at work and seeing a schoolgirl, a nurse, a Playboy bunny, and a sexy cop come on sequentially. Which only happens on Halloween.
Kat: Why wasn’t there a sexy bee? I guess that would just look like Bumblebee Man.
Bubbles: Where the hell was sexy Harry Potter is what I want to know. Or Sexy Mormon Missionary?
Kat: All the showmanship made me wish people besides burlesque fans would want to see that at the female strip club. Even if we did go through all that trouble, we wouldn’t earn any more money. You can do pole tricks or you can just sit there and spread it and you’ll make more doing the latter. Which got me thinking to what it would be like if women went to strip clubs to just have men hold still in one position so that they could just stare at their crotches, taking it all in and nodding.
Bubbles: “Bend over and spread it for me” is probably not a thing lady patrons say to male strippers, but it might be a thing male patrons say to male strippers. There’s very little about how the customer interaction affects babystripper Adam, which is interesting, because if this were a movie about female strippers, there would for sure be some kind of nightmare customer or even just a gross customer interaction to lightly traumatize her.
Kat: I’ve been traumatized by female customers. They should have had the quintessential older swinger lady who hikes up her skirt to display that she’s not wearing underwear.
Bubbles: Oh god, yes, plus the audience was just unrealistically attractive! Like, they wouldn’t have been grinding on cute sorority girls and pretty chicks. They would have been dancing for women who looked like the audience at that screening (sorry, but, uh, overweight and middle aged) or like in this sketch from SNL, the one with the male strippers in, of course, the episode Tatum hosted.
Bubbles: I love how Mike doesn’t want to go to nursing school or law school or get married or write a memoir, but that he wants to start his own artisanal custom furniture business. That’s not Tampa, that’s Portland. And how relatable is his bad credit? A lot of us have been there.
Kat: The bad credit scene almost got me choked up and reminded me of when I was blackballed from the bank system. It also reminded me of when the shop girls were mean to Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.
Bubbles: And yet he is the one doing the books for Xquisite! Which, OK, sometimes a stripper will become a doorgirl and then do the books. I can think of one I know firsthand who actually had this career arc. But to sit down after your shift and count the drawer? No. Other things these male strippers get that female strippers, for the most part, don’t: shift pay, a percentage of the bar profits, offers of equity ownership in the club, a sewing machine in the dressing room and a gym/dance studio. A DANCE STUDIO. The only choreography we do is trying out pole tricks when it’s slow. We sure as hell don’t show up for group practice in the afternoons.
Kat: The closest thing we get to a rehearsal facility is tanning beds in the dressing room.
Bubbles: Speaking of melanin, we noticed a real lack of racial and sexual diversity—no black guys, no gay guys, and what are the odds of any troupe of male dancers having not even one of those?
Kat: Not even so much as a mixed guy named Latte. Terrible.
Bubbles: Channing Tatum is really good! I love when you can see the burnout just kill the light in his eyes, right before he does an angsty avant-garde dubstep number where he grabs a hold of a rope and spins very rapidly. It is his performance art moment. He feels so much angst that the movie goes black and white for a few seconds. His pelvic thrusts are the cathartic thrusts of a man who can only truly express himself on stage with his crotch.
Kat: If a thrust is worth a thousand words…
Bubbles: It was just one of the moments that really resonated with us—we’ve all been the girl having a shitty night at work and said “fuck it, I’m going to dance to something obnoxious and just work it all out on stage.” There were so many other little things like that, like when Mike is straightening out his singles, and when Richie hurts his back doing a stage trick. For me, the details like that are what made it. That, Joe Manganiello’s face, and McConaughey’s move to quirky supporting/character/indie actor status more gracefully and completely than any other romcom leading man ever.
Kat: If only I had a dollar for every time I’ve hurt my back on stage. The singles straightening scene was such a nice touch that it almost made up for Magic Mike doing the books high on GHB. If there’s anything I took away from Magic Mike, it’s that some movies are so great that they don’t need plots and that funny and arousing are not mutually exclusive. You don’t get that many opportunities to stare at ripped straight men unless you go to a military base or the Jersey shore. Most of us are stuck with guys trying futilely to hide their boobs with white v-necks because they think that their personalities are enough. Plus who doesn’t love a man who can dance, like really dance? Just look at John Travolta, Kevin Federline, and Chris Brown. Okay, bad examples. I would not recommend seeing this movie with parents, unless maybe you have a young, hip mom. I guarantee it’s better than Ted.
Bubbles: I’m pretty sure straight women, lesbians, and gay men will go see this, leaving only straight men to be convinced. Obviously any straight guys reading us are secure enough in their masculinity to take a date to see Magic Mike plus, well, you’ll get laid.
Tits and Sass rating: nine out of ten inches