Before becoming a Hollywood star, Channing Tatum worked as a male stripper. Director Steven Soderbergh has addressed the mundane sides of sexuality in movies like Sex, Lies, and Videotape and The Girlfriend Experience. The two are a perfect fit for Magic Mike, a combination of comedy and drama about a male stripper and his new protege.

Mike (Channing Tatum) has a dream and business plan to start his own company, designing and making unique furniture out of almost anything he finds. However, Mike makes most of his money as "Magic Mike," a male stripper at the club Xquisite in Tampa, Florida, run by Dallas (Matthew McConaughey). Mike has several irons in the fire -- auto detailing, roof tiling -- which brings the young Adam (Alex Pettfyer) into his life. Mike introduces Adam to the world of stripping, introducing him to a world of screaming lustful women, lots of cash (in singles and fives), and other perks. But Adam lives with his sister Brooke (Cody Horn), who may have an interest in Mike but also has grave concerns about Adam's new lifestyle. There are a number of other players -- Joanna (Olivia Munn), Mike's casual-sex girlfriend; Tobias (Gabriel Iglesias), the club DJ with some seedy side projects -- but Magic Mike is mainly about Mike and Adam, moving between Brooke's suspicions about the "stripper lifestyle" and Dallas' gleeful embrace of the same.

There are two sides to Magic Mike. On the lighter side, there's copious amounts of prurient displays of male skin, from the comical routines (with lots of thongs, crotch-grabbing, and gyrations) to the casual nudity the strippers enjoy. But then there's the underbelly, that while Mike enjoys a certain fame and definite money, he also knows he's been stripping for six years and not really closer to his dream. Dallas' promise of opening a bigger male strip club in Miami -- promising Mike equity in it -- is either upwards and onwards for Mike, or putting off what he really wants. And it's all new and tempting to Adam.

Magic Mike balances its blend of seriousness and silliness with a terrific cast. Tatum hasn't impressed me before, but here he makes the title character shine, someone who may appear happy and hyper on stage but very reserved (and possibly doubtful) about his life in private. McConaughey is a hoot as the stage owner who's as happy choreographing his stars as whipping the crowd into a frenzy and performing for them. Pettfyer is solid as the newest stripper (his stage name is "the Kid" when he begins), and Horn is a little too serious and reserved as the big sister too worried about her little brother to relax.

While Magic Mike balances the stripper scales by offering men showing skin and shakin' their booty, it's also a solid drama that shows that stripping isn't all fun and games and ones and fives.

Overall grade: B+

Reviewed by James Lynch

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