While the rest of you guys are living it up at Comic-Con and I’m totally not wallowing in self-pity and jealousy, let’s talk about Magic Mike and why everyone should go see it.

Four good reasons, right there.

When I first heard that Channing Tatum was going to make a movie (loosely) based on his time as a male stripper, I thought someone was messing with me. Then I heard Matt Bomer was going to be in it — what — alongside Joe Manganiello — WHAT — and the movie was going to be directed by Stephen Soderbergh — EXCUSE ME?! — and by that point I realized that it had to be real, because not even in my wildest fantasies could I have imagined something like this.

Fast forward almost a year later, and Magic Mike is finally here. And guess what? It’s not just a stripper movie, it’s a critically acclaimed stripper movie.

Trailers tend to be a little misleading from time to time, but I walked into the theater expecting to see a very different film from the one I ended up watching. The movie was promoted as a fun, sexy summer flick with a lot of skin and raunchy humor. It definitely has all of that, but much like tearaway clothing, Magic Mike has some hidden layers.

Soderbergh’s cinematography is stamped all over the film, with wide-angle shots and long, tracking takes. The movie has the feel of a documentary in a lot of ways. There is minimal use of a soundtrack, with long stretches of silence breaking up scenes of hectic action and noise. People carry on in conversations in the background or talk over each other, and the dialogue feels real because it’s unpolished and, at times, awkward. The b-roll footage shows that the actors performed their dance routines in full, just like a real stage performance. (The bulk of these were, tragically, cut down to fit within quick montages. We can only hope that the DVD release will include all of complete dance routines.)

On the surface, the plot of this movie is neither complex nor original: Mike is a veteran stripper who sees his job as a means to an end and wants to do something more with his life. (In this case, build custom furniture. Why not.) Adam is a college drop-out with no ambition who gets caught up in the lifestyle and becomes enamored by it. Mike takes on the role of a mentor for Adam and starts a flirty-yet-still-totally-platonic friendship with Brooke, Adam’s older sister, who isn’t crazy about the whole stripper thing. There’s a cast of other characters, including the other strippers and Dallas, the seedy, greased-up, perpetually shirtless owner of the club who has ambitions of taking his show to a bigger, richer city.

“I think we should be best friends.”

It’s easy to guess where the movie would go from there. Mike would get the loan he needs to start his business (or, as in the style of early 2000’s dance movies like Step Up, win some kind of stripper competition cash prize that’s more than enough to fund his dreams). Adam would see the error of his ways after escaping a near-death experience and go back to college with renewed focus. Dallas would turn out to be a clear villain and his manipulating ways would come back to bite him in his tassel-thonged ass. Brooke would fall in love with Mike and be overcome with unbridled passion at the sight of his… custom furniture.

Only none of that happens. Because in real life, there is no obvious hero or villain, there is no neat happy ending, there is no clear moral lesson, and nobody cares as much about your custom furniture dreams as you do. You can’t change people who don’t want to change, and you can’t always get what you want just by trying and believing in yourself. But you still have to try.

It truly is a lovely table, bb.

I’m not going to claim that Magic Mike is a cinematic masterpiece — get back to me after I watch the deleted scenes — but there’s definitely a lot more to it than naked manflesh and hip thrusts. The characters are flawed and real, their relationships startlingly familiar. The premise might be theatrical (there’s even talk of a musical adaptation in the works), but the themes are universal. So if you haven’t seen it yet, grab some friends and get to it. Trust me, this movie needs to be seen on the big screen to be fully appreciated.

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