Magic Mike’s Last Dance Is a Super Horny Fairy Tale for AdultsMovies Reviews Steven Soderbergh
If you’ve strapped in to partake in the trilogy of Magic Mike films, they have certainly taken us on a ride. With Magic Mike, Channing Tatum showed off his assets, and dazzling dance moves, in a sorta-somber look at the dark(ish) side of male stripping. Magic Mike XXL was the shallow romp with Tatum assembling a hot dance crew to put on “just one more show,” like a dirty version of The Muppets. And with Magic Mike’s Last Dance, director Steven Soderbergh, writer Reid Carolin and Tatum reunite for (supposedly) the last time with an unabashedly romantic fairy tale for the “just can’t quit it” dancer, Mike Lane.
Set post-COVID, Mike finds himself suffering the hard knocks of life once more, having lost his furniture store to the pandemic economy. Damn those supply chains! Bartending while contemplating his career limbo, he serves up a tasty libation to the rather forlorn host of his fundraising event gig, Maxandra Mendoza (Salma Hayek Pinault). His low-key flirting piques her interest, and a colleague’s outing of him as a former party stripper prompts her to seek him out with a post-party proposition. He thinks it’s sexual, but she just wants her first lap dance. Offering him $6K for what he dubs his “last dance,” Mike proceeds to rock Max’s (and our) world with his freakishly limber and seductive coitus choreography. And boy, do Channing and Salma sizzle. He only sheds his shirt, but you’re gonna remember that five-minute sequence like you were a filthy fly on the wall, and maybe need to go outside for a smoke at the end of it.
But it’s framed as more than just base chemistry for the pair, as they experience a seminal moment with one another. That dance ignites a personal epiphany for Max regarding her dormant passions long snuffed out by her suffocating marriage. She wants to showcase Mike’s talent, wooing him to follow her to London for an opportunity she promises will finally take full advantage of his potential. She promises $60K for one month of his time—and no sex, as it would ruin their one perfect night together. And so he goes, uncertain about her surprise and definitely feeling like a midlife crisis project amongst her stuffy rich friends, cranky valet Victor (Ayub Khan Din) and eternally disappointed teen daughter Zadie (Jemelia George).
Unfortunately, such a nimble and genuinely erotic opening turns into a muddier and less streamlined second act that has Mike and Max using a theater property she owns to stage a show. She wants to reinvent a currently running, stuffy and misogynistic play into a modern retelling using contemporary dancers and Mike’s choreography and direction. With that comes the requisite audition montages of the pair putting together their handpicked crew of street and classically trained dancers. The show itself feels like a bunch of ideas that drunk friends threw at the wall to figure out later, which means that aspect of the film always plays just this side of too cheesy as we watch it take shape. Plus, none of the dancers are given any screen time outside of their dance skills—incredible though they may be—which leaves the script leaning on some hammy outside impediments that add to the bloat.
On the plus side, there are some charming sequences of Mike acclimating to Max’s life, the two flirting but not touching and even a Zoom cameo by his OG stripping crew: Ken (Matt Bomer), Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello), Tarzan (Kevin Nash) and Tito (Adam Rodríguez). Maybe the oddest addition is the random injection of some staid narration about the transformative nature and ineffability of dance by Zadie (who aspires to be a novelist). Clearly, those mini monologues are there to land the “dance as a conduit to magic” metaphor, but they’re clunky and unnecessary.
If anything, Channing and Salma are all the film needs to sell its romantic soul. When they are together, there is serious smolder and sweetness as their characters see things in one another that no one else has rallied behind before. Their dual journey of feeling seen and appreciated for once is a little simplistic—and certainly plays into every love-at-first-sight trope—but they are great together. It works. Hayek Pinault is the only woman in the trilogy who meets the performance fire of Channing’s physical talents, and that’s something the previous films have severely lacked.
Of course, the whole affair comes to a climax with the reveal of the final show, and to Soderbergh’s credit, the man knows how to frame some showstoppers. The choreography is stellar and culminates in a rain-soaked dance number featuring Channing and a ballet dancer that rivals the Scoville scale hotness of its lead-ins. It’s certainly different from what’s been presented in the films before, and that big dance is framed as an actual love letter, which makes it more purposeful and romantic.
For those looking for more razzle-dazzle with assless chaps, Magic Mike’s Last Dance may test your patience with its meandering middle. But Channing Tatum is so damn skilled as a dancer, comedian and romantic hero, he rewards the patient. And he does so with a scene partner in Hayek Pinault who helps him elevate the weaker parts. Together, they remind us exactly how badly Hollywood has been failing us when it comes to serving up horny cinema for grown-ups. Bless them both for closing out this franchise with a bang.
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writer: Reid Carolin
Starring: Channing Tatum, Salma Hayek Pinault, Jemelia George
Release Date: February 10, 2023
Tara Bennett is a Los Angeles-based writer covering film, television and pop culture for publications such as SFX Magazine, Total Film, SYFY Wire and more. She’s also written books on Sons of Anarchy, Outlander, Fringe, The Story of Marvel Studios and The Art of Avatar: The Way of Water. You can follow her on Twitter @TaraDBennett or Instagram @TaraDBen.