I think it was about half an hour into Magic Mike that I thought to myself that one day we'll look back at this past decade or so of movies that Steven Soderbergh has made with something approaching awe, with a sense of "Why didn't we seem to know what we had then?" Maybe it's because there's too much of this good thing - he's put out seven movies in the past three years! - or maybe it's because he seems to toss them off so easily and they're generally about, superficially that is, superficial things. Male strippers and porn stars and girl assassins and silly overblown apocalypse films, oh my.
And yet in his hands these stories are so very much more. Surely I could spend a couple of paragraphs here describing in vivid detail the sheer tonnage of sparkly thongs that Magic Mike's got to offer - and offer it does, in jangly montage upon jangly montage, a cinematic choreography of perfect pecs and pumped-up glutes on parade - and y'all wouldn't mind. Thankfully for me - because turning that flesh into words does that flesh a disservice; you should just wait and see it for yourselves, I cannot do it justice just by saying things like "bountiful buttocks" or "twenty foot tall inflating penis" - thankfully then, Soderbergh gives me things to write about.
Like how he turned a silly stripper fantasy into a picture of the world today, of how we live now, with what feel like real flesh and blood characters (yeah with an emphasis on the flesh, no doubt) interacting with real flesh and blood characters (yeah, still the flesh here too) in a world that feels genuine and true with genuine and true highs and lows, financial realities and bad ideas and pet pigs eating vomit and conversations over beer in a parking lot.
And it feels as if Soderbergh is having a ball, just letting loose, and it's infectious. From the opening Warner Brothers logo of another era on Soderbergh's dancing on his tiptoes for our singles and fives and sweating like Joe Manganiello's shimmering glimmering thighs with style and purpose and good old-fashioned horny humor, and he makes it work. Not since Nomi Malone's leather harness has another dance scene expressing "Anger! Emotion!" lit me up inside so much as when Channing takes it serious, yo, with the bleeping and the blooping and the hip-checks in his hip-hoppery.
And that nonsensical sentence (it'll make sense some day) makes it sound as if I'm appreciating Magic Mike on just a camp level but that ain't it at all. It has elements of camp, of course it does - there is a character named Big Dick Richie who has a big dick. But it's in a celebratory way, totally self-aware but not at all giving us any wink wink nudge nudge.
What Magic Mike is is a damn near miracle. A sexy miracle! Nuns be popping their tops and the lame shall walk and the blind shall see and what they walk towards and what they shall see is Channing Tatum's thong descending from heaven on two perfect fluffy clouds, so bright, so divine, you shouldn't stare directly at it, you can feel your hair going white, your limbs falling into pillars of salt, but you don't give a good goddamn anymore, it is so totally worth it.