It’s been over a decade since the first Magic Mike, which I blindly went into under the assumption that it was a basketball movie. You can imagine my surprise when male strippers were handing out condoms at the advance screening. The fact that I’m still reviewing Magic Mike movies eleven years later is almost as surprising. Magic Mike’s Last Dance may be the most pleasant surprise of all. This is coming from someone who never got that into the original Magic Mike, remembering the screening experience better than the movie itself. For a threequel that didn’t need to exist, this may be the franchise’s steamiest, funniest, and most well-choreography outing.
Channing Tatum returns as Mike Lance, whose furniture business officially goes under thanks to the pandemic. Yes, it’s another post-COVID movie, but Magic Mike’s Last Dance thankfully isn’t loaded with too many 2020 references. Mike finds himself bartending, but his true calling comes a-callin’ when a wealthy soon-to-be-divorcee named Maxandra (Salma Hayek Pinault) requests a dance. Turning her mansion into his stage, Mike proves that he’s still got it with an impromptu dance that’s equal parts sensual and inventive. Mike spends the night with Max, who asks him to accompany her back to Europe. It’s Pretty Woman with a male stripper twist!
To a certain extent, Magic Mike’s Last Dance mirrors real life. Originally, a Magic Mike musical seemed bound for Broadway. The project was shelved as it struggled to take shape. With the pandemic around the corner, it was probably a blessing in disguise anyway. Steven Soderbergh was instead driven to make a third Magic Mike film, drawing inspiration from a live show based on the franchise that played in the West End. In this film, Max enlists Mike to modernize a dated stage production with erotic dance. Confused yet intrigued, Mike accepts the directing gig, finding that he might be the Adam Shankman of strippers.
The film naturally shines the most during its dance sequences with Mike assembling a motley crew of street performers. While the choreography is invigorating, the dancers themselves aren’t given much personality. Maybe this is the screenplay’s fault or maybe these performers are dancers first and actors second. Either way, they’re forgettable compared to Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, and Mike’s friends back in the States, who are limited to video call cameos. The only cast member of Mike’s show who stands out is Juliette Motamed’s Hannah, who represents the female gaze.
Magic Mike’s Last Dance is primarily a showcase for Tatum and Hayek, who possess a strange yet believable chemistry. Mike has matured since we first met him, although he’s never been more desperate for money. Maxandra has cash to burn, but she’s not especially responsible with it. This makes for an intriguing parallel as two people from different worlds collide, balancing each other out in unexpected ways. Assuming this is indeed Mike’s last dance, it’s a satisfying note to go out on, even if the final scene keeps things ambiguous. The ending might not be as deep as Soderbergh thinks it is, but for Magic Mike 3, it leaves a stronger impact than it has any right to.