Film review: Magic Mike

MAGIC MOMENTS: Male stripper drama Magic Mike with Channing Tatum is surprisingly enjoyable, even for a male audience.
MAGIC MOMENTS: Male stripper drama Magic Mike with Channing Tatum is surprisingly enjoyable, even for a male audience.

So there I was, at the preview, more or less ignorant of what exactly Magic Mike was about, hunkered down in a seat near the aisle, when it began to dawn on me that I seemed to be the only bloke in the house. Nah, surely not.

Even at Sex and the City 2, I'm sure I spotted a couple of fellow sufferers. Maybe some poor sap on a date, or another reviewer, or a theatrical type with a propensity for good haircuts and small dogs? But nope, at Magic Mike I was a man alone, adrift in a sea of women. And then the oddest thing happened: The female representative from the radio station (these things are usually arranged by one of the commercial stations) arrived on stage.

''Youse guys are awesome'', she shouted, into her quite redundant microphone, ''Are you ready for some nudity?'' And at that, 300 woman threw back their heads and whooped and howled, spraying the air with glittering droplets of expectorated sauvignon blanc, as the lights dimmed and the projector flared into life. I sighed, and made a mental note to ask the editor for a raise sometime soon.

But, you know what? Despite the deeply dodgy marketing, the determinedly lowest common denominator tone of the trailer, and even the baying expectations of the crowd, Magic Mike is actually pretty good.

There's a realisation that kicks in about 10 minutes into a film. It's that moment when you realise that everything seems to be working; that the dialogue is acceptably natural and unforced, that the edit is propelling the story along as it should, that the performances are credible and watchable, and that the director and writer know how to get into their scenes late, and to get out of them at the earliest opportunity.

I like that moment. It's the point at which I can relax and just enjoy a film for what it is, no matter how far out of the target demographic I might be. I occasionally get asked how I could have enjoyed Mamma Mia, or Sex and the City (1, not 2), and the answer is easy.

They're competent films, and easy to admire. I like them in the same way my lovely 78-year-old mum likes Alien: because a good film is a good film, no matter what the subject.

And so, Magic Mike, a drama about a troupe of male strippers. It's well enough acted; Channing Tatum hasn't got much in the way of dramatic chops, but he's a likeable presence. While Matthew McConaughey, handed the role of the reptilian troupe leader, goes about his work like a man still fuming that Tom Cruise got the lead in Rock of Ages. Also, the film is well shot.

Director Steven Soderbergh (Oceans 11, Erin Brockovich) has always had an inventive way with his camera placement, and he's having fun here. And yes, as promised, there is a lot of nudity, most of it pretty tanned and taut, some of it very wittily choreographed.

Listen, if your life just won't be complete until you've seen Tatum dancing around in a very small pair of undies, then nothing I say will keep you from Magic Mike, and quite right too. But if you're just looking for a half decent drama, with a few darker than expected twists and turns, and a couple of decent laughs, then you could actually do worse.

Magic Mike (R16) (110 min)

Directed by Steven Soderbergh.

Starring Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, Alex Pettyfer, Cody Horn.

The Dominion Post