“Magic Mike” is more than the gimmicky beefcake buffet its advertisements suggest.

The latest from director Steven Soderbergh is actually an interesting examination of the seedy lifestyle that comes with being a male stripper, approaching the profession in the same manner that Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Boogie Nights” approached the porn industry. And although it isn’t on the level of “Boogie Nights,” it’s still pretty good.

Channing Tatum, in perhaps the best role of his career outside of “21 Jump Street,” stars as Mike, a construction worker by day who strips at night so he can build enough of a nest egg to go into his own custom furniture business.

While working construction, Mike meets Adam (Alex Pettyfer), a struggling 19-year-old, and decides to help him out. He gets Adam a job at the strip club, much to the objection of Adam’s sister Brooke (Cody Horn), and takes him under his wing – mentoring Adam on the ins and outs of the profession.

“Magic Mike” slowly evolves into a cautionary tale, with the inevitable troubled times leading to a moment of clarity for the lead character.

As predictable as it was, I remained interested in large part due to really nice performances from Tatum and Matthew McConaughey as the sleazy club owner/aging emcee who has grander visions of his own.

These felt like real characters, with Soderbergh appearing to peel the curtain back to reveal the profession’s not-so-glamorous underbelly.

I’ve never been a fan of Tatum’s, but I can now see why he is liked so much after seeing “Magic Mike.” It’s the first time in his dramatic career that he looks and acts like a star, giving a dynamic performance that kept me focused even when some of the plot threads around him came apart.

It’s the role he was born to play, because it’s a role he had before he became an actor (he worked as a male stripper before getting his Hollywood break). That bit of realism gives “Magic Mike” just enough of a jolt to make it something that the ladies will love, but any guy forced to go along can appreciate as well.

Also in theaters

Another film arriving in Bowling Green this week is “Moonrise Kingdom” (A). The latest from writer/director Wes Anderson isn’t just the best film of his career, it’s the best film I’ve seen so far in 2012.

Set in the 1960s on a New England island, “Moonrise Kingdom” centers on 12-year-olds Suzy (Kara Hayward) and Sam (Jared Gilman), who fall in love and decide to run away together.

Their disappearance leads to a search party involving a handful of the town’s adults, including the sheriff (Bruce Willis), Sam’s scout master (Edward Norton) and Suzy’s parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand).

This is a beautiful ode to first love with Anderson’s trademark style. The writing is sharp and witty and the cinematography and set designs are extraordinary. “Moonrise Kingdom” looks like a Norman Rockwell painting come to life.

The adult cast, many of them Anderson regulars, are fantastic. But they are upstaged by the two newcomers, who give the film its delightfully quirky heartbeat. As loners, Sam is an orphan and Suzy has emotional outbursts that alarm her family. I found their relationship to be believable and somewhat relatable.

It’s a beautiful touch on a film rich with beauty.

“Moonrise Kingdom” is rated PG-13 for sexual content and smoking and is now playing at the Great Escape Greenwood Mall 10.

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