Saturday, June 30, 2012

As it turns out, Channing Tatum can act.

(So can, to a lesser extent, Alex Pettyfer, but I'll get to him in due time.)

Until about a year and a half ago, I didn't get the Channing Tatum thing. He hadn't been in any roles that required more than diamond-cutting abs, I didn't really dig the Step Up franchise as a whole, and he just had--and has, but with age he's gained depth--a face that...lent itself incredibly well to a dumb, blank expression.

And then I watched The Eagle, mostly for Jamie Bell, but along the way encountered a lot of press for the Taters in which he was a funny, even witty guy who displayed a remarkable self-awaresness about the LOL REDNECK bullshit that really boils down to classism. (I have strong feelings on this subject, but I'll save them for another post.) So, okay. Dude's a worthy specimen of the human species. Doesn't mean he can act. Until 21 Jump Street came along and proved that Monsieur Taters is actually pretty damned gifted as a comedic actor, even if with dramatic roles he's maybe not so talented. Or so I thought.

Y'all, based on the previews, you probably think that Magic Mike is a Big Dumb Fun Movie about men being candy, and to a certain extent that's correct. I thought I was going to to have to do CPR on one of my girlfriends several times; given that she has an extreme aversion to being touched, this likely would have ended with me being punched in the face. The unexpected burdens of friendship. Anyway, the men in this movie are staggeringly beautiful specimens of our species, each one lovingly and lingeringly objectified in ways normally reserved only for women. That alone would have earned this movie a thumbs-up from me. However, it's also solidly written and acted, with a particular gift for witty dialogue that still sounds like normal people just talking while we spy in.

And Taters. Mr. Tatum, known with varying amounts of affection about the internet as Charming Potato, delivered far and away the best performance of his career. Though that could sound as damning with faint praise, given that he turned in the first of many pretty-boy stinkers over five years ago, it's really not. Tatum carries the movie with a performance that is hilarious, subtle, and layered. I didn't even known he could do those things with his eyes. He makes the movie. I feel like over the top gushing will ruin the review or make it seem like I'm giving him nods out of pity or something, given how much he didn't work for me in the past, but I'm not kidding: Channing Tatum refutes every negative thing ever said about his skills as an actor in this movie. A late bloomer, maybe, but undeniably a talent.

Which is not to say that an honorable mention doesn't also go to Alex Pettyfer, himself not exactly known for nuance and brilliant portrayals. I'm not giving him quite as much credit for playing an asshole, since backstage scuttlebutt is that he's every bit as difficult to work with as Taters appears to be a kind and decent guy, but his character is so painfully nineteen that I had to peek at him through my fingers a few times. I hope I wasn't that much of a little shit at the same age, but I kind of think I was.

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