'Magic Mike's Last Dance' Review
February 10, 2023
There are two camps of viewers who have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the trilogy finale that is Magic Mike’s Last Dance. The first are those responsible for the $40 million opening weekend haul for the original and accounted for 96% of the opening weekend ticket sales for the sequel: women. It’s not hard to see why the audience demographics broke down the way that they did, but it could also be a symptom of a more noticeable trend of movies being less “sexy” these days.
The second group is far smaller and less enthusiastic, which is the cinephiles who are interested in seeing what’s next for Steven Soderbergh, who returns to the director’s chair after taking a backseat to his frequent collaborator Gregory Jacobs for the sequel. The Oscar-winning director has always been hard to label an “auteur” on account of his chameleonic nature, not just in genres but also in mediums and filming techniques (shooting Unsane and High Flying Bird on an iPhone before it was cool). He’s now directed more films than he did before announcing his retirement in 2013, providing high-quality content to streamers like Netflix and HBO Max with Let Them All Talk, No Sudden Move, and Kimi.
Both of these groups likely won’t be fully satisfied with Magic Mike’s Last Dance, ending this unlikely franchise on a whimper instead of the sensual bang it deserved.
Now almost forty (although you’d hardly be able to tell as Tatum looks nearly the same as he did in the 2012 original), former male stripper Mike Lane is in Miami trying to make ends meet while bartending. His compadres from the first two films are (sadly) gone, leaving Mike to walk down this lonely road by himself. That is until he meets the extremely wealthy and also equally lonely Max (Salma Hayek Pinault), who coaxes Mike into giving her one last private dance. Mike’s dance (shot and edited with pinpoint precision by Soderbergh under his usual Peter Andrews and Mary Ann Bernard pseudonyms, respectively) unlocks something deep within Max, prompting her to invest in his talents by taking him to London to revive a stodgy play that’s been overplayed at the theater she owns.
Just as he’s done with every entry, Tatum’s business partner Reid Carolin writes the script, instilling it with the usual big themes about having a purpose in life and how people react to the adult entertainment business. Carolin’s even added narration here about the psychological influences of dance, which sounds just fine as long as you cover your ears.
Soderbergh seems to be more interested in the ideas than the physical acts themselves, as evidenced by his two chapters being much less fun than Jacob’s middle child. The dance sequences are of course competently shot and stitched together but are weighted down by what they’re supposed to mean on a thematic level. There’s less of a free spirit to them, keeping the true carnal passion just under the point where it’s too uncomfortable to watch with your parents.
While the rest of the bros are sorely missed, Hayek makes a nice fold against Mike. Her confidence is mesmerizing, and so is the way she looks, attracting all the eyes in the room with her clothes and gravitas. The relationship between her and Tatum doesn’t hold up the eye test though, as the romantic sparks fizzle rather than fly. Their creative relationship is solid, with Soderbergh constructing some snazzy Ocean’s Eleven recruitment montages as they gather their troupe of dancers.
Last Dance takes a mature approach to ending this story, which would be admirable if it didn’t sacrifice so much of the fun of its predecessors. What was originally mostly just Step Up for adults has been overthought and underserved, stripping (pun intended) almost all of the guilt and pleasure out of the term “guilty pleasure.”