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Magic Mike’s Last Dance ★★



Director: Steven Soderbergh

Cast: Channing Tatum, Salma Hayek, Caitlin Gerard, Gavin Spokes, Christopher Bencomo

Release Date: February 10th 2023

Ten years ago, Steven Soderbergh and Channing Tatum teamed up on a comedy-drama that was loosely based on the latter’s experiences as a stripper in Florida. Upon release, Magic Mike’s gritty insight into the tumultuous life of a male stripper was a critical and commercial success and marked a key step in the ‘McConaissance’. After one entertaining sequel, the duo reunite for the cinematic swansong of Michael Jeffrey Lane.

Magic Mike’s Last Dance sees Mike (Tatum) as a bartender, having lost his business due to the pandemic. A job at a charity party sees him meet the wealthy Maxandra Mendoza (Salma Hayek Pinault), who offers him a lucrative deal that sees him perform one last time.

On paper, Magic Mike’s The Last Dance feels like Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – a director sets the tone but sits out the second instalment, which offered a surprisingly refreshing change of pace. The director ultimately returns to finish what they started…but the result is a confusing mess.

If the posh British narration isn’t enough to deter you from the outset, Soderburgh encourages the idea of The Last Dance being just that: the last stage performance of Magic Mike, as he passes on the baton to a new generation of strippers. London-based audiences will consider the plot as meta (a former stripper creating and directing a strip show in the capital), so the director and screenwriter Reid Carolin are not short of inspiration – to the point that it comes across as laziness. 

Throughout the film, Mike is chauffeured around London, dressed up in sharp suits and essentially under the thumb of his over-exuberant benefactor Maxandra, a rich socialite obsessed with the idea of giving women ‘everything’ through a one-night-only show after being seduced by Mike’s talents. Between his nonchalance and her commanding nature, their dysfunctional relationship causes an imbalance within the narrative. This results in Maxandra’s underexplored relationships with her ex-husband and her neglected daughter Zadie (Jemelia George), leaving audiences wondering about the extent of her emotional connections with others, especially as there is an implied yet stale romantic tension between her and Mike. Meanwhile, his expressionless nature can be misinterpreted as maturity and it doesn’t help the fact that there are very few moments in the film where he actually looks like he is having fun  – even interactions with characters such as Maxandra’s butler Victor (Ayub Khan Din) and Zadie aim for comic relief but the dialogue and visible tension cause these moments to become awkward and sometimes forced.

In addition, the brotherhood and positive masculinity among Mike and his friends that helped establish the first film, not to mention shape Magic Mike: XXL into a fan favourite, is diluted to the point that it is non-existent. Although there is an implied brotherhood among the new crop of talent – highlighted by a brilliantly choreographed dance scene on a bus – their condensed journey lacks heart (thanks to an abundance of montages), so there is minimal emotional resonance with the audience. Sure, a Zoom chat brings back former cast members such as Joe Manganiello and Matt Bomer for a few moments, but Carolin nips this nostalgia in the bud quickly – The Last Dance is all about Mike, who dominates the narrative but comes across as a lost character.

Between Pinault’s exaggerated physical gestures and Tatum’s sombre performance, they represent two emotional extremes that fail to entertain and entice audiences – even their ‘will do/won’t they’ dance throughout the film feels like one overlong cliché that is compounded upon Magic Mike’s Last Dance’s abrupt conclusion. Combined with Soderbergh’s uneven direction and the unimaginative screenplay, even the film’s attractive leading actors cannot stop the plot from swerving into a deep pit of confusion and tedium.

There is an anticipation behind Magic Mike’s The Last Dance that promises audiences a show to remember. Unfortunately, its looks aren’t enough to thrill audiences, let alone make a lasting impression.

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