Magic Mike’s Last Dance review: A middling threequel
Matthew Turner | On 07, Apr 2023
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Channing Tatum, Salma Hayek Pinault, Ayub Khan Din, Jemelia George, Juliette Motamed, Vicki Pepperdine
Channing Tatum reunites with director Steven Soderbergh and writer Reid Carolin for this third instalment in the Magic Mike franchise. Unfortunately, while male stripper Mike is still present and correct, some of the magic of the previous two movies is missing, thanks to a lacklustre plot, uninspired direction and a handful of narrative missteps.
Set shortly after the Covid-19 pandemic, the film begins with former stripper Mike Lane (Tatum) working as a bartender, having lost his furniture restoration business. When he meets wealthy socialite Maxandra Mendoza (Salma Hayek Pinault) at a party, she persuades him to give her a six thousand dollar lap dance and basically gets more than her money’s worth.
Impressed with Mike’s obvious talents, Maxandra asks him to accompany her to London and help her spice up a regency-era play that’s running in the theatre she’s just won in a divorce settlement from her media mogul husband (Alan Cox). Initially, Mike feels out of his depth, but soon finds his creative juices flowing as he transforms the play into an extravagant strip show with elaborate dance routines.
The film starts strong – the opening dance between Tatum and Hayek is nothing short of sensational, positively dripping with sexual chemistry between the two leads as they writhe around every inch of Maxandra’s luxurious apartment. Unfortunately, however, nothing in the rest of the film comes close to matching that scene, whether for energy, invention or hotness. Essentially, the film climaxes too soon and never recovers.
That said, the appealing chemistry between Tatum and Hayek is sufficient to sustain interest in their subsequent will-they-won’t-they relationship, even if the script doesn’t put all that much effort into it. Elsewhere, there’s the occasional consolation in the form of an amusing supporting performance (notably Ayub Khan Din’s butler), but the rest of the film feels rough around the edges, like they went into production without a finished script.
As a result, the plot feels sub-standard, and all the obstacles the story throws up are contrived and unconvincing. One key problem is that we never get to know or care about the other dancers that Mike recruits for his stage show – as a result, the dance numbers lack a personal connection that would help to draw us in.
On a similar note, the dance numbers aren’t quite as impressive as the movie thinks, in that you can’t imagine the depicted audience being suitably wowed. Even the best of the routines – a water-based number – feels like something out of the Step Up series and seems distinctly implausible as something that could be staged at short notice in an old London theatre.
In addition, there are a number of narrative missteps, chief among them the decision to have the story narrated by Maxandra’s teenage daughter, Zadie (Jemelia George). Whatever the filmmakers were going for there simply doesn’t work, as it’s neither amusing nor insightful, and Zadie isn’t connected enough to the main story for it to have an emotional angle.
On top of that, Mike’s fellow dancers are sorely missed throughout, something that’s underscored further by a token video chat catch-up with Ken (Matt Bomer), Tarzan (Kevin Nash) and the gang at the midway point. The film also fails to make decent use of its London locations, only managing to squeeze in a product placement-esque trip to Liberty’s department store and not even giving Mike a try-on-all-the-clothes montage in the process.
In short, it rather feels as if Soderbergh’s heart wasn’t really in this one, as it lacks the character, the vaguely socio-political dimension or the insight into sexual politics that characterised the previous movies. It just about gets a pass on the strength of Tatum and Hayek’s performances and that opening routine – which is, to be fair, one of the best scenes of the year – but Magic Mike’s Last Dance should have been a lot more fun.