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magic-mikeHere’s the answer to the first question most people have asked me about “Magic Mike”: Yes, Channing Tatum appears naked but not nekkid. In movie terms naked means posterior shots, nekkid is when he turns around. Channing is now too big a star to turn around, but rest assured, within a minute of appearing on screen he leaves little to the imagination.

Directed by Steven Soderbergh, “Magic Mike” is a loosely biographical account of Tatum’s time spent dancing for money in a Tampa strip club. He plays the title character, a thirty-year-old entrepreneur and stripper with one foot on the stage and one in the business world. When he recruits the hot-headed Adam (Alex Pettyfer) to dance at the club he gets drawn deeper into the dark side of the art of selling sex.

Let me first say “Magic Mike” is abtastic.

There haven’t been this many finely sculpted stomach muscles in one place since the Dr. Ho infomercials of the late 1990s. The genetic blessings of stars Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer and Adam Rodriguez as Chippendales stereotypes like cowboys, firemen and construction workers, mixed with the little details–how Mike smoothes out the sweaty, rumpled bills that get shoved down his G-string and then presses them under a large book–and moves that redefines dirty dancing, paint an effective portrait of the dancers who liberate the sexual passions of the giddy girls in their audiences.

That part the story gets right. When the movie is showing some skin it works, it’s when it gets to the stuff underneath–the heart and soul–that it falters. Up until the final half-hour it’s all about, as Mike says, “women, money and good times,” but the inevitable turn toward the dark side isn’t nearly as interesting as everything that came before it. “Boogie Nights” did it first and did it better.

By the time “Magic Mike” reaches its redemptive moment, with the classic rock anthem of rebirth “Feels Like the First Time,” blaring in the soundtrack, the movie feels like something we’ve seen before.

But for those who stopped reading after the words “Channing Tatum” and “naked” “Magic Mike” offers the pleasures of an endearingly charming performance from the titular character, an unhinged one from McConaughey and lots of buff, hairless men doing things that would make your grandmother blush.

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