'Magic Mike's Last Dance' review: Steamy trilogy ends with a whimper
Courtesy of Warner Bros.
When 2012’s “Magic Mike” was released into the world, it felt like a cultural touchstone. Here we had a film manufactured for a neglected female demographic who up to that point, only had cheesy romantic comedies and damsel in distress action flicks to contend with. “Magic Mike” finally gave women the horny, sexed-up comedy they deserved (whereas in 2012, it seemed a movie came out every month demoralizing women). Centered around Channing Tatum and his attractive pals gyrating in a room of middle-aged ladies looking for a memorable night out, Steven Soderbergh’s “Magic Mike” had a surprising amount of heart, was grounded, and said a thing or two about how exploitative gig work can be in a tough economy. Its sequel, “Magic Mike XXL,” upped the ante, kept what made the first outing special, and introduced a slew of incredible, tightly constructed dance sequences few dare to rival.
Now comes “Magic Mike’s Last Dance,” the third and supposed final entry in this franchise, and it couldn’t feel more different, in terms of pure vibes and energy. It has some commendable dance sequences, choreographed by Luke Broadlick, but none come anywhere close to what the previous installments accomplished. Writer Reid Carolin tries to enliven the franchise by incorporating an awkward framing device where newcomer Jemelia George, a character who will become important, narrates the movie as if it were a “Pride & Prejudice” rip-off. We’re quickly told that Micheal Lane (Tatum, still likable and suave as ever) had to give up his business because of the pandemic and now bartends at fancy charity events.
At one of these gigs, he meets the wealthy Maxandra Mendoza (Salma Hayek Pinault) who pays a hefty sum for a lap dance, which quickly turns into more than just a dance. Enamored by his, uh, moves, she asks him to come to London for a one-month stint to help rehabilitate and rebrand a vintage theater known for its classical plays. Instead, the venue will now be home for a menagerie of hunky male strippers (who are never introduced or allowed to speak) as Mike utilizes his talents in a new medium. Unfortunately, it’s a plot development that puts the main character into a scenario outside of his element and never gathers the friction or momentum needed to carry it over the finish line.
Likewise for a half-baked romance that brews between himself and Maxine, which throws its own share of complicated tightropes into the mix. Ironically, the only instance where “Last Dance” comes alive is when Tatum suits up alongside dancer Kylie Shea in a “Flash Dance” inspired episode. In that moment, we’re reminded what lures people to this franchise other than scantily dressed men with huge biceps and shredded abs, but the beauty of dancing. It’s an artform worthy of celebration and the entire “Magic Mike” series deserves credit for breaking serious theatrical barriers, but one had hoped the send-off would’ve been better.
MAGIC MIKE’S LAST DANCE is now playing in theaters.