In The Dark

In The Dark

‘Magic Mike’ 

Despite many 11th hour predictions that “Magic Mike” would top the raunchy teddy bear comedy “Ted” from Seth McFarlane, in the weekend box office wars, it did not happen. Still it was a record-breaking weekend as both movies exceeded profit expectations — a first for two openers on the same day. There is something to be said for giving the people what they want.

Plenty of ladies wanted beefcake and clearly it drove ticket sales for this feature based on the brief career as a stripper its star enjoyed before finding stardom. Channing Tatum’s star is definitely on the rise as this barely proven leading man gets a biopic and executive producer credits on this film.

Attaching director Steven Soderbergh to the project gave it some needed weight and saves it from being just another slice of generic cheese. Having Soderbergh behind the camera also makes this movie better than it probably deserves to be because that is exactly what it is — a piece of cheese, albeit a tasty one.

This movie might about Tatum’s short-lived stint as a stripper, but the real star and the one now being touted for a supporting actor Oscar is Matthew McConaughey as the strip club’s oily owner, Dallas. The character is an amalgam of every male stripper and silver-tongued con man, plus he looks super good in his tight leather pants.

“Magic Mike” also stars Alex Pettyfer as Scott, a 19-year old that Tatum’s character, Mike, recruits for the Tampa strip club Exquisit, where he and Dallas are quasi business partners with expansion plans for Miami. Oddly, the other strippers … um, actors … barely have a handful of lines although they have all been making the talk show rounds like there is equal billing. Adam Rodriguez (“CSI Miami”), Matthew Bomer (“White Collar”) and Joe Manganiello “(“True Blood”) are better known to television audiences, and shaking their booties in this is not likely to earn them feature film careers anytime soon.

The simplistic plot revolves around Scott and the bad influence he falls under at the club. Drugs, money, oh yes, and plenty of ladies (one of them played by Elvis’s granddaughter Riley Keough) turns the naïve teen into a egotistical punk, but the film stops short of having him hit rock bottom and veers back to Mike, who by this time realizes he has a thing for Scott’s sister, Paige, played by Cody Horn, the daughter of studio head who happens to be a passable actress.

Bits and pieces of Soderbergh’s distinctive style are evident, but it’s easy to get distracted by the jiggle and wiggle. Call “Magic Mike’” entertainment, sure. But let’s be honest; this brand of “Magic” usually requires snapping dollar bills into thongs.

‘People Like Us’While “Magic Mike” was selling enough buns to make Sara Lee jealous, it was easy to overlook the third opener this weekend, a drama surrounding a dysfunctional family – or two – that is strictly character driven. Honestly, not one person takes off their pants. Chris Pine stars as Sam, the distant son of an LA-based music producer and his wife, Lillian (Michelle Pfeiffer). When Dad dies and his son is forced to return home, he discovers he has an adult half-sister, Frankie (Elizabeth Banks), a struggling single mother to a young son. Family secrets keep bubbling up as Sam comes to terms with a sister he never knew and his own choices.

This is a likeable movie with sympathetic characters that resonate, even if some if their decisions seem implausible. Pine’s good looks detract from the fact that he’s a solid actor. In fact, what holds this together are some fine performances from the leads, including Pfeiffer, who is aging gracefully, going from leading into supporting roles.

Engineered to tug at your emotions, don’t be surprised if you dab away some tears toward the end. You might just find you have a soft spot for these “People.”

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