There are already reports that someone wants to put Magic Mike — Steven Soderbergh's flaccid Top Gun-ification of Floridian male-stripper life — on Broadway. So spins the circle of multiplex life in a summer when Foreigner keeps turning up, cockroachlike, on soundtracks. The stage hit Rock of Ages just punched Mick Jones' big-screen ticket, and Magic Mike goes out on "Feels Like the First Time." Insert "Double Vision" joke here.
You wouldn't finger nerdy Soderbergh as making the kind of picture that sets a theater full of women hooting. But this is the director's least cerebral exercise since The Girlfriend Experience, and even that dull boner killer labored to camouflage porn star Sasha Grey's nonperformance with a wash of the director's glitchy moves. This is Soderbergh working the mainstream with all the calculation of a Chippendales dancer dry-humping a bachelorette party.
From Channing Tatum's thick-necked title character on down the dude line, Magic Mike is wetter and way nakeder than Girlfriend (or any other Soderbergh title). In fact, it's more comfortable with bare skin than the average R-rated summer movie — especially the skin of dripping-slick, Navy SEAL-buff club owner Matthew McConaughey, doing an odd and fascinating turn that suggests Sam Elliott's grizzled Road House sage recast for vintage John Cassavetes. Sometimes that comfort works to the movie's advantage. The moment it takes to register that the object in one blurred foreground shot is a penis in a vacuum pump is the beat that separates wit from crassness. (But listen, if there's any magic to Magic Mike, hear my plea. If I had one wish today, it would be for the immediate and permanent transfer of every unwanted body hair and stray fat ounce of mine to Matthew McConaughey.)
Magic Mike is also more comfortable with its chiseled dude bodies (and the occasional fleeting breast) than with drama. Tatum says this is rather Disneylike compared with his own actual few months as a Sunshine State strip-club wiggler, and maybe his war stories are entertaining when he tells them, one on one. But Magic Mike doesn't have much reason to exist, other than as further testament to Soderbergh's willingness to filter, through self-conscious genre slumming (this is his backstage musical), his preoccupation with wealth management versus wage slavery (see Traffic, Erin Brockovich, the Ocean's trilogy). This time it doesn't work. Long before the saccharine, quasi-Sixteen Candles last shot, the glitter trail goes cold.