LOS ANGELES -- If it seems like Channing Tatum is everywhere, it's probably because he is. He's appeared in five films this year, with the latest being the upcoming ensemble comedy-drama 10 Years. The roles have come in every imaginable genre, each strikingly different from the last.
And hey, what do you know? Five is a magic number around here. So let's rank Tatum's 2012 performances, in order of preference:
'21 Jump Street'
Comedy is so underappreciated, and what Tatum does here is especially tough: He plays the straight man opposite a much more established comedian, Jonah Hill. (Who is, come to think of it, also the straight man.) And yet, Tatum also has to let himself get a little goofy and toy with his hunky image as the film itself gets goofy, which he does with great enthusiasm. Satirically inspired by the 1980s TV series, 21 Jump Street features Tatum playing a former jock who returns to high school as an undercover police officer alongside his partner (Hill), the nerd he used to torment way back when. It's rowdy and raunchy but Tatum and Hill share an unexpectedly sweet chemistry.
The perfect blend of Tatum's muscular good looks, dramatic ability, and dance skills. Steven Soderbergh's behind-the-scenes look at the life of a male stripper also happens to be one that's close to Tatum's heart: He worked briefly as an exotic dancer before breaking into acting. Anyone who saw the original Step Up from 2006, the movie that put Tatum on the map, knows what a gifted dancer he is. But here, he's just mesmerizing: confident, creative, acrobatic and, above all, seductive. He's just as charismatic offstage, though, as he shows a young Alex Pettyfer the ropes and tries to show Pettyfer's sister he's a good guy after all. Tatum also enjoys a couple of intense showdowns with Matthew McConaughey as the swaggering strip club owner.
Tatum shows his romantic leading-man side in this old-fashioned, heart-tugging amnesia story. He stars as Leo, who struggles to remind his wife, Paige (Rachel McAdams), that they were happily in love after a car accident wipes out the last five years of her memories. Tatum is saddled with a whole lot of explanatory voicevoer, full of obvious platitudes about life being a series of moments of impact, blah blah blah, but his sense of ache and sorrow is believable. It's a nice idea: experiencing what it's like to fall in love all over again for the first time. Tatum and McAdams sometimes make the execution of it more tolerable than it should be, but not often enough. This movie was hugely popular, grossing nearly $200 million when it came out in February. I found it contrived and treacly because I'm cold and soulless.
In Tatum's first pairing with Soderbergh this year, he mainly had to act like MMA superstar Gina Carano wasn't going to beat the complete crap out of him. At least, not immediately. Because she easily could have -- and she could have with all her stars, including Michael Fassbender and Ewan McGregor -- which required her to hold back a little while doing her own stunts here in her feature film debut. At the film's start, a hungover and impatient Tatum meets up with Carano's character, a covert-ops specialist, after a mission in Barcelona. He was her partner on the job, and he may or may not be trustworthy. A tense conversation quickly turns into a knock-down, drag-out brawl in a small-town diner.
His latest isn't exactly his best. Then again, he's part of a large ensemble that includes larger personalities, including Ari Graynor, Chris Pratt, and Anthony Mackie, and his role is comparatively low-key and formulaic. Tatum plays one of several old friends who've gathered for their 10-year high school reunion. He's brought with him his longtime girlfriend (played by his real-life wife and Step Up co-star, the equally gorgeous Jenna Dewan). He's also brought along the engagement ring he plans to give her, but he's had trouble finding the right opportunity to pop the question -- plus, as we learn in one of the film's many intertwined storylines, he still has some emotional loose ends to tie up with his ex-girlfriend (Rosario Dawson). There's not much to his character -- the prom-king-turned-mortgage-broker, he's kind of a dud -- but at least he's fun to look at, as always.