From its early days to the present, Hollywood has provided audiences with handsome men who have graced the big screen. Channing Tatum continues this tradition. That is, take a sculpture of the human form, place it into the medium of pictures, and what do you get? A beautiful painting that moves. Add some talent to that and simply step back and applaud.
The film industry throws out there many good-looking men, hoping one of them will stick. It seems Channing Tatum has done just that. What something new does Tatum bring? In what new way is he entertaining us? The apparent answer is a new face, a "pretty-ass Blue Steel face,” according to Marlon Wayans, Tatum’s G.I. Joe costar. It’s a necessity in the entertainment business. But a more meaningful answer is Channing Tatum, himself.
Dito Montiel, the writer-director who cast Tatum for his films A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints and Fighting, makes an attempt at pinning down Tatum’s appeal. “It sounds corny, but he’s got something that’s behind the eyes.”
These new eyes are good for the film business. When Tatum is asked about his character, Martin, in Side Effects, he observes, “Not many people come knocking on my door for a white-collar crime sort of guy, that’s for sure (laughs). Steven [Soderbergh] felt I would lend the story a different perspective, as opposed to casting somebody we’ve seen play similar parts a bunch of times.”
To reiterate, if one were to pinpoint some new “shades of Channing Tatum” that weren’t on the big screen before, it would consist of his scene in Dear John at the beach by himself next to his surfboard while the rain falls. You see a beautiful creation of the male form and at the same time you also see the tragedy within. The All-American surfer boy is no longer reserved for only lighter fare.
This intensifies to the scene at the front door where he tells Savannah goodbye and drives away crying in his car. When such good looks are truly hurting and he is likable, audiences return in kind.
From there he gets you laughing in his funny fight and apology scenes with Vince Vaughn in The Dilemma. It’s not always serious. There’s also a comedy side. His character takes part in the careless actions toward love by getting involved with a married woman, and this builds up to the comedic fight scene with Vaughn who says, “It takes two, not three, prick.” Tatum continues the fight with a baseball bat to Vaughn’s windshield while saying, “Crazy’s here, baby.” Tatum’s play-love for the wife of Vaughn’s best friend could have made this scene tragic, but he and Vaughn together somehow gets you laughing.
This “funderland” side of Tatum continues in 21 Jump Street. There are the scenes of him and Jonah Hill riding bicycles, the fish-out-of-water scenes in high school where they mistakenly exchange classes, the throw-up scene in the stall, the Peter Pan stage scene, and the expected explosions that won’t explode. But this “silliness” rises to something we can all relate to, the two men’s friendship, and in Tatum fashion, he is able to deliver it in the closing scene. It gives 21 Jump Street a recognizable connection in the end, no matter how brief.
Next, Tatum can take you away into action with G.I. Joe, with attributes that are appealing in this type of atmosphere--the military face and hair, the fit body, the southern speech, simply, those things about the hero desired in an action film. Fortunately for the men, they can have this version of Channing Tatum. It seems there will be more of this “Action Tatum” going forward.
What about the version for the women? What can be more enjoyable than romantic love? It has been written about from so many angles, so many writers, so many filmmakers, so many poets, so many singers and musicians, yet love never seems to tire from our need for it.
Every new generation will embrace it and will make the call as to who they want to portray this love back to them. It seems one who has been chosen is Channing Tatum.
In his two movies, Dear John and The Vow, he falls in love and commits but the circumstances make it difficult for this love to continue. However, the endings of these movies show that despite the hurt and brokenness in the timeline of this love, the same love can begin and be renewed again.
In Dear John, in the dining room scene, Tatum wants to find out from Amanda Seyfried, who plays Savannah, his girlfriend, why she broke up with him. He asks her, “Why didn’t you call me? I mean don’t I deserve more explanation than that letter? You could have given me some sort of chance to change your mind? You thought that little of me that you couldn’t have just called me. Why?”
She replies, “Because just hearing your voice I would have changed my mind…You think it was easy for me without you? You thought every single day it wasn’t a g*dd*mn marathon of my life without you?” As she explains further with the pain she feels, he listens, understands, and gets up to give her an affectionate hug. This scene is charged with hurt as well as love. It’s a version of Tatum that women appreciate for their entertainment.
In The Vow, Rachel McAdams, who plays his wife, isn’t regaining her memory so he appeals to her and says, “I’m trying to help you. But I’m not your punching bag. We don’t speak to each other like this. This is hard for me, too, Paige.” Later, she knows he loves her when she tells him, “I hope one day I can love the way you love me.” Tatum replies, “You figured it out once. You’ll do it again,” as he walks away and eventually decides to let her go. His dialogue foreshadows the end when they do meet again, showing signs of starting over.
Women like these kinds of things, and it seems they prefer Tatum’s version to be the one breaking their hearts only to have him mend them back again.
Another way Tatum shows love in his characters is in his movie, Step Up, where he meets his wife, Jenna Dewan. He shows his dancing ability in this movie. He doesn’t mind looking clumsy next to his future wife as he makes several attempts at a pirouette.
This dancing version of Tatum for the women includes the surface-fun-ness of love, in his movie, Magic Mike. Tatum entertains women who need a break and are simply having a girls’ night out. The sculpted male form with the easeness that Tatum brings to it seems to meet women’s need for admiring male beauty. In Tatum’s words, he explains, “Guys go to see female strippers for completely different reasons. I keep using the words ‘carnal’ and ‘primal.’ It’s more reactionary, to get actual stimulation. Women go for the complete opposite effect. They don’t go for stimulation, they go for a uninhibited experience that is more of an entertainment thing. They want to go to laugh, have a crazy time with their girlfriends and embarrass each other. It’s more of a story they can tell for years to come.”
In this Magic Mike world, there is also love. There is a subtle hint of his heart getting broken by a woman he was seeing regularly. In the end he also turns towards love. He says to Brooke, “I’m not my lifestyle. Am I Magic Mike right now talking to you? I’m not my *** job. That’s not what I do. It is what I do but it’s not who I am.” Brooke replies, “The question is, do you believe it?”
Can we believe that Tatum, the actor creating make-believe in whatever movie set he may find himself in, is not Tatum, the person living his everyday life? More likely. It seems the daily down time is a required necessity to stay refreshed when placed in movie plots where anything can happen.
Because of all these plots where he is written in and where he can easily get lost, what beliefs allow him not to get stuck inside this make-believe? And do these beliefs complement how he appears on the screen? It seems this is essential, making anyone curious about what is so likable about the person acting out our own humanity.
Why not enjoy our own, connected stories and at the same time appreciate Channing Tatum’s new interpretations? Could other actors have played such roles in these movies? The answer is yes, but there is much to like when Tatum is on the screen.
What much is there? If one were to peel the layers, the first layer is obvious. The second layer provides a brief get-away, to consider other situations besides our own little dramas. In the next layer he helps us cry and laugh about love. A deeper layer illustrates the belief in romantic love as he reflects it back to us safely as a story. “Safely” meaning that no one’s life will always be honey-coated and thus this unstable situation is easier to bear through a story. Underneath it all is true love, what Tatum’s work, and all before and after him, remind us not to let go of, whether we have found this love or not.
This true romantic love is sometimes equated with true universal love, what is already within all of us, an unconditional love that pools all of us together. The draw of romantic drama and romantic comedy includes the recognition of this undying, universal love. When an actor like Tatum can act this out for all, it is very much appreciated.
One layer at a time, Channing Tatum is this new, all-around actor, who can take on romantic love, drama, action, comedy, and dance. It seems it would be easier to click through a search engine to see where he wouldn’t fit. He is going to be harder to bookmark into one niche. And if he does have a niche, it will be presented as a layered Tatum-cake.
Of all the layers, which of his characters is closest to him as a person? He reveals, “I think they all have some aspects of me. But… probably the ones in ‘Magic Mike’ or ’21 Jump Street’ (laughs). ‘Magic Mike’ was sort of my life, it’s not a biopic at all, but it was things that really happened when I was a kid. So maybe ‘Magic Mike.’ I’m so different now though, so it’s hard to say. There are a lot of different versions of us as we grow up. And the ’21 Jump Street’ character, that’s me inside my head, all of the time (laughs). Probably that one.”
It seems age has made him more introspective but at the same time, “the kid” part of him, the entertainer, remains. Add to that, his character on 21 Jump Street, Jenko, the youthful energy inside a grown body. Keep in mind that Tatum says he relates to these roles and then laughs.
Of course, aspects of his roles mirroring him as a person are subject to change. Whether changing, staying the same, or both, Channing Tatum is able to continue the Hollywood tradition of the leading man, the hero who stands for what is right for the men, and the possibilities of romantic love for the women, and for some inexplicable reason, he can get you laughing about it all.
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