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Is Channing Tatum too hot for his own good?

'Magic Mike' is going to propel Channing Tatum to the next level of stardom. But will he be relegated to beefcake roles for the rest of his life, or can he step out of the gym and into a varied and interesting career?

Channing Tatum is hot. That’s not something with which you can really argue. I’m not saying he’s the pinnacle of the male species, or that he’s your, or even my, particular taste. But the guy looks good. He’s got that boy-next-door all-star football player kind of look. This is a totally made-up statistic, but when 90% of people look at him, their first impression is: Hot. Sweet. Dumb.

No one expected anything more from Channing Tatum. He’d be the perfect bland male film hero that a certain segment of the population would swoon over, and the rest would just shrug their shoulders at. No one expected Tatum to have any genuine talent outside of ab sculpting and smoldering looks. That’s why 21 Jump Street was such a surprise. Instead of being simply the pretty face to make women flock to the theaters, he was genuinely funny in his own right, exhibiting a sense of humor about the dumb pretty boy characteristics that had gotten him this far in life. I walked out of the movie theater with a whole new appreciation of Tatum. And then I saw The Vow.

The Vow promised to be a cheesy, sentimental popcorn flick. Something to drag your boyfriend to against his will or to watch on the couch with some chocolate or a bottle of wine. In that regard, it did not disappoint. Channing’s blank sweetness is perfect for a role in which he’s trying to make his amnesic wife fall back in love with him. On paper, everything about it works– until they decided to make Channing Tatum a hipster.

They could have made Channing Tatum’s character a construction worker, a cop — really any profession from The Village People. Even a weirdly racist Indian would have made more sense than trying to cram all of those muscles into a flannel shirt. Tatum makes an admirable effort, but he just doesn’t fit. That body and that face do not own an independent recording studio or hang out with people wearing carefully curated thrift store outfits. They don’t have guerrilla weddings in art galleries. They drink beer and watch football. They read Men’s Health and spend an inordinate amount of time in the gym, and Tatum knows this.

Not hipster abs

Throughout the entire film, the poor guy looks like a cat in a sweater. He’s making a valiant effort, but the character just doesn’t fit on him. What’s striking is that it could. Underneath those perfect pecs lies someone who absolutely could play a creative soul; someone who would write his own romantic vows and be best friends with someone sporting an ironic mustache. That guy was trying so hard to get out, but Tatum just doesn’t look the part.

Right now, the question Tatum needs to ask himself is, “Do I want to be Vin Diesel, or do I want to be Brad Pitt?” Diesel had a promising start, earning critical acclaim for his role in Saving Private Ryan. He chose to parlay that notice into starring roles in The Fast and The Furious films and xXx, before sputtering out with The Pacifier. Brad Pitt gained notoriety as a young beefcake in Thelma & Louise, and then spent the next two decades choosing varied and interesting roles that took him far away from his pin-up status.

Magic Mike is tailor-made for 2012 Channing Tatum. Inspired by his own experiences as a male stripper, Magic Mike is unleashing his chiseled abs, along with those of  Matthew McConaughey, Alex Pettyfer and Matt Bomer, onto American women who have been working themselves into a 50 Shades of Grey-inspired frenzy all year. Channing Tatum photos and Magic Mike-inspired ecards are even edging out the Christian Grey-related boards on Pinterest. If there’s still anyone who doesn’t know who Channing Tatum is, they will after this movie.

There’s no doubt that Magic Mike is going to propel Tatum to the next level. The question is simply, “What will he do with it?” If he’s smart, he’ll stop going to the gym, eat a cheeseburger, and try to find that transformative role that’s going to change everybody’s perception of him. More likely, he’s going to do some crunches and wait for the inevitable call from Jerry Bruckheimer. The film buff in me is hoping he goes for the former.

Photo Credit: Warner Brothers

Categories: Features, General

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