As of summer 2012, Magic Mike probably represents Channing Tatum's finest hour. He proved in the riotous 21 Jump Street that he's got comic chops to match his more obvious physical charms, and here he's given convincing emotional depth to play with too - that is, when the script isn't having too much fun beguiling us with a genuinely smart and funny sort-of musical.
Although it's certainly enjoyable on a hen night level - in the same way that you could enjoy, say, The Avengers simply for the spectacle - Steven Soderbergh's sexual commodification drama is actually a little smarter than that. Not brain surgery smart, but pop-culture smart. Putting it another way, the strippers at the Xquisite revue aren't the sharpest tools in the box, but they certainly know how to hammer home a point.
It helps that the performances are universally game toppers for the actors involved. Matthew McConaughey has always seemed to project a slightly sleazy screen persona, making some of his rom-com roles dubious, but here, he's perfect as the madam of the stable. Putting it kindly, Alex Pettyfer hasn't been blessed with brilliance, script-wise, but here, he's a revelation, delivering a believable and absorbing snapshot of a young man enjoying himself that bit too much. And Channing Tatum is a natural, which is to be expected given the whole film was his idea, based on his own experiences as a 19 year old stripper in Tampa.
In a nutshell: Musings on the nature of capitalism wrapped in a very pretty package, with plenty to say about bromantic relationships too, Magic Mike is a film for adventurous audiences of all persuasions.
By Catherine Bray