Film Review: Magic Mike’s Last Dance
Magic Mike’s Last Dance
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Warner Bros. Pictures
In Theaters: 02.10
Bulging biceps, rock-hard abs, gyrating hips—it’s not hard to see why the Magic Mike franchise has achieved its cult status. But is it just the dancing that gives it such appeal? Does the appeal linger even after the dancing stops and only the film’s characters are left? Where does the “magic” even come from? Enter the trilogy-ending Magic Mike’s Last Dance.
The Magic Mike franchise has always quietly placed its story against the backdrop of real world events, with the original film being a subtle commentary on blue-collar working conditions following the 2008 recession. This time around, Mike (Channing Tatum) finds himself struggling to find work following the COVID-19 pandemic. While working private events as a bartender, Mike crosses paths with socialite Max Mendoza (Selma Hayek Pinault), who sheepishly asks him to perform a lap dance for her, something Mike claimed to have sworn off years ago. Old habits die hard, and after a dance that blows Max’s mind, she whisks Mike away to London so he can use his talents for one last hoorah.
What follows is a fairly boilerplate “one last ride” storyline packaged as a romantic comedy. Tatum and Hayek Pinault share a palpable chemistry (especially during dance numbers) that is sadly lacking from many modern films, though it feels their romance never gets the chance to fully blossom. While not necessarily “bust a gut” hilarious, Magic Mike’s Last Dance is plastered with a perpetually sly grin. It has no qualms with its sexy content and makes no apologies for it, and that is certain to elicit occasional giggles. It’s a film that knows what you want to see and delivers.
Much of this delivery banks on Tatum’s star status. While he carries the film with his dependable charm and charisma, key character interplay is missing from this entry. While previous films boasted ensemble cast members such as Matthew McConaughey and Joe Manganiello, Tatum is largely flying solo here. The old crew makes a small cameo on a Zoom call but are otherwise absent, and Mike never really gets a chance to bounce his (sometimes) ridiculous ideas off anyone else but Max, narrowing this film’s opportunity for comedic moments that previous entries won with ease. The film introduces quite a few new English hunks for audiences to salivate over, but none of these characters is fleshed out beyond the bare minimum of being a recognizable face.
Nearly all complaints about the film’s casting and storytelling dissolve as it locks into its third act, which is where the titular “last dance” takes over. The film’s final act is nearly wall-to-wall dancing and stripping—it’s a delight. Steven Soderbergh’s direction is smart and calculated as always. His distinct, often asymmetrical compositions are visually striking, and front to back the film is gorgeous. Magic Mike’s Last Dance could have been tacky in the wrong hands, but Sodgerbergh’s clear vision gives direction that the story otherwise lacks.
In a theater surrounded by women who were cheering, clapping, whooping and wolf-whistling, the true “magic” of Magic Mike dawned on me. There’s a reason this film was released in theaters despite its initial plan to go straight to streaming. Whether the “magic” is in the dance or in the filmmaking, it ultimately doesn’t matter, because its presence is undeniable. –Seth Turek