Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike was a surprising smash hit for the eclectic filmmaker: a grounded, yet crowd-pleasing, look at the life of a male stripper. Soderbergh took a backseat on the sequel Magic Mike XXL, handing the directing reins over to Gregory Jacobs. The result was something a lot frothier: a road trip comedy with all the filthy fun of a hen party.
Now comes Magic Mike’s Last Dance, a trilogy capper that sees Soderbergh back at the helm. But those thinking the filmmaker will bring back any edgy realism are mistaken. This threequel chucks believability out of the window. Unfortunately, it also ends the cheeky franchise on a bum note.
Life has not been kind to Mike Lane (Channing Tatum) since we first met him. The former erotic dancer is now freelancing as a bartender. His wealthy employer, Maxandra Mendoza (Salma Hayek), requests he shows her his moves, resulting in a night of passion. Newly inspired, Maxandra decides to whisk her toy boy off to London, appointing him as the director of a West End show. There, they set about transforming a period drama into a striptease spectacular.
It’s a plot so outlandish it feels totally out of step with the previous films. In what reality are we expected to believe any of this fluff takes place? Despite its far-fetched plot, it’s the most humourless of the trilogy. Channing Tatum turns up the charm as Mike, but the comedic spark we’d gotten from previous supporting stars Matthew McConoughey and Joe Manganiello is sorely missed.
It makes some kind of meta sense to cast Latina legend Salma Hayek in this…after all, she played a stripper to star-making effect in From Dusk Till Dawn. But here, she’s lumped with an obnoxious character, a loaded divorcée with clearly more money than sense. After the electrifying dance at the start, the chemistry between Tatum and Hayek fizzles out, and the relationship comes off as uncomfortably transactional.
The film’s most egregious error, however, is having Mendoza’s smart-arse daughter Zadie (Jemelia George) double up as a narrator. She pretentiously pontificates about the meaning of dance like some sixth-form philosophy student.
Sure, the dancing itself is terrific, and for those just looking for hunky dudes strutting their stuff, you’ll get what you paid for. The relocation to London’s West End is undoubtedly inspired by Magic Mike Live, London’s stage adaptation of the series (directed by Tatum himself), which has become a sensation in its own right. Is Last Dance some kind of savvy cross-media promotional piece, or a second-rate alternative for those who can’t afford the real thing?
A rare misstep for its whip-smart director: Soderbergh’s Magic Mike finale may be bookended by terrific dance sequences, but the magic is largely gone.
Magic Mike’s Last Dance is now showing at Eden Cinemas