Magic Mike’s Last Dance

Review by Hannah Strong @thethirdhan

Directed by

Steven Soderbergh


Caitlin Gerard Channing Tatum Salma Hayek


Saddle up!


The worst thing to happen to London since Taylor Swift's London Boy.

In Retrospect.

I'm not angry, I'm just disappointed.

Mike Lane swaps Miami for London in this frustratingly underwhelming and unsexy threequel.

The word ‘masterpiece’ gets bandied about a lot when it comes to cinema, but I’ll go out on a limb and say it: Magic Mike XXL is a masterpiece. While Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike was a poignant take on the pitfalls of male strippers and the blue collar ramifications of the 2008 recession, Gregory Jacobs’ supersized 2015 sequel was a much more light-hearted affair, as Mike Lane (Channing Tatum) and his posse saddled up to put on the show of a lifetime. The gyrating and impeccably-choreographed dance sequences were interspersed with a level of character development that was frankly unexpected, giving depth to the Kings of Tampa.

Central to this was an emphasis on the importance of the fraternity itself – Mike became himself again when he reunited with Ken (Matt Bomer), Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello), Tito (Adam Rodríguez) and Tarzan (Kevin Nash) and in turn each member of their quartet was able to discover their true passion as they road tripped from Florida to South Carolina. It’s curious, then, that for the third film in the franchise – which comes eight years after XXL – writer Reid Carolin would abandon something which audiences were so attached to, in favour of transplanting Mike to London and shrinking the cast down to the point the film revolves around a romance between Mike and his wealthy new patron Maxandra ‘Max’ Mendoza (Salma Hayek Pinault, drafted in last minute to replace Thandiwe Newton who had to leave the film mid-shoot due to health problems). 

The relationships between Mike and his various lovers (Cody Horn’s Brooke and Olivia Munn’s Joanna in the original film, then Amber Heard’s Zoe in XXL) have always been one of the least compelling elements of the franchise, with Carolin seemingly missing the point that Mike himself is a fantasy: he’s the sensitive, soulful blue collar babe with a sense of humour and hips that don’t lie. We’re not watching the Magic Mike films to see him find love in a hopeless place – in this instance Clapham – we’re watching because of Tatum’s irrepressible charm and fast feet. 

As such, centering Magic Mike’s Last Dance almost entirely on a will-they-won’t-they romance immediately makes the storyline a little less compelling, despite the easy chemistry between Hayek Pinault and Tatum. It doesn’t help that Max isn’t an interesting character. She’s the wife of a British media mogul going through a messy divorce, and hires Mike to direct the show at her West End theatre after a tryst in Miami reawakens her lust for life. Hayek Pinault is a charismatic actress, but the character is painted with such broad strokes it’s difficult to really invest in her, or her precocious teenage daughter Zadie (Jemelia George) whose jarring narration interrupts the film at various points to explain the anthropological history of dance.

It’s not that Tatum isn’t charismatic enough to carry a film alone (Dog is great!) but Magic Mike’s Last Dance certainly feels like it’s missing the camaraderie that its ensemble provided. There are new faces in the form of the cast Mike assembles for his West End show, but these dancers are barely given names, let alone lines, mostly appearing in background shots reacting to whatever Mike and Max are arguing about. When Max insists on flying over a star dancer from Italy, there’s a sense this might cause some friction later – but no. He’s just brought into the ensemble of assorted handsome feature extras without issue.

This half-baked feeling extends to the script – where the most dramatic moment involves a disagreement with Westminster council’s planning department – and the film’s use of location. Transporting Mike from Miami to London isn’t an inherently bad idea, but Soderbergh’s decision to shoot in only the most unsexy, touristy destinations of the capital give the whole thing a grubby, artificial sheen. Case in point: a Paddy Power shopfront prominently features in multiple scenes, and one of the few scenes outside of the theatre takes place in Liberty’s. For a film all about desire and passion, Soderbergh presents London as a city devoid of it, the cinematic equivalent of a faux-chummy high street bank advert, and the less said about the dour colour grading the better. 

At least there’s the dancing, right? Well…you’d be better off moseying down to the London Hippodrome and grabbing a ticket for Magic Mike Live, since this is effectively a two-hour advert for the show (many of the show’s dancers feature in the film). The opening number between Tatum and Hayek Pinault is overlong to the point of inducing cringe, and while there’s absolutely no doubt that the new cast of dancers are talented, the recycled choreography takes some of the shine off for anyone who’s seen the previous two films or the live show. 

The greatest disappointment of all comes in the grand finale, which involves a ballet-inspired dance in the rain, copied almost beat-for-beat from Alison Faulk’s award-winning scene on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia‘s season 13 finale. Faulk choreographed all three Magic Mike films as well as the live show (along with her partners Teresa Espinosa and Luke Broadlick) which makes the lack of innovation here particularly disappointing. Most heinous of all: the film only gestures towards Ginuwine’s ‘Pony’ – the song most widely associated with the franchise, and given prime screen time in its predecessors. 

It’s not a complete disaster – there are some genuinely charming moments, notably a Zoom call cameo from Richie, Ken, Tito and Tarzan – but most of the laughs come from how baffling the dialogue is and how poor most of the supporting cast are (Juliette Motamed innocent) rather than intentional gags.

After the highs of Magic Mike XXL and even the sombre drama of the film that started it all, this strangely unstarry threequel feels like a massive missed opportunity, lacking the charisma, humour and spectacle of what came before it. Of course it was always going to be a tall order to live up to the first two films, but even assessed on its own Magic Mike’s Last Dance feels like a slapdash effort, with a half-baked script and poor execution, not at all representative of the talent on and off camera. It’s a bum note for Mike to go out on – but ticket sales for Magic Mike Live should see an uptick at least.

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Published 8 Feb 2023

Tags: Channing Tatum Magic Mike Magic Mike's Last Dance Salma Hayek Steven Soderbergh


Saddle up!


The worst thing to happen to London since Taylor Swift's London Boy.

In Retrospect.

I'm not angry, I'm just disappointed.

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