It’s hard to believe that the musical drama Magic Mike’s Last Dance is directed by the Oscar-winning Steven Soderbergh. This is the final part of a trilogy that began when Tatum burst onto the screen as Mike Lane in Magic Mike. The 2012 introduction to Mike and his loyal troupe of ripped strippers with their seductive moves and rambunctious choreography, was also directed by Soderbergh. But this concluding part feels like routine, apathetic filmmaking.
The follow up, Magic Mike XXL (2015), with a new director at the helm, was indeed as much, if not double, the fun. So much so that the success of the first two parts resulted in a spin off stage musical.
Magic Mike’s The Last Dance focusses on women’s empowerment, control and, of course, desire. The problematic representation begins with Salma Hayek Pinault as a scorned woman plotting against her wealthy estranged husband. After a one-time lap dance by Lane, who has otherwise retired his thongs, Maxandra Mendoza (Hayek Pinault) is besotted. Slated to gain a prestigious theatre venue in London as part of her divorce settlement, Maxandra convinces the in-debt Mike to quit his bartending job in Miami and move to London to become a part of her grand plan. Think Pretty Woman meets Downton Abbey, but with strippers.
Lane doesn’t resist any of Maxandra’s orders, from a fashion makeover, to moving into a fancy London apartment, slipping into a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce and commandeering a London stage production. Why must one choose between money and love? Why can’t you have both? This is the most thoughtful dialogue in a film that is built on a shaky plot and a whim. Soderbergh gives Hayek several close ups as she longingly admires Mike’s fit frame and irresistible dance. Tatum’s character, on the other hand, is no longer the enigmatic leader of the once uber-popular dance troupe made up of men with specific personalities and favoured by hen parties and ladies only clubs. Mike’s lost his magic, except when he takes to the stage for a showery last dance.
A surprising face in the cast was Ayub Khan Din. Best known as the writer of crossover films East is East and West is West, he plays Victor, Maxandra’s loyal valet-chauffeur and babysitter to her daughter Zadie (Jemelia George).
Maxandra’s plan is to give a long-running, but antiquated play a feminist upgrade and punch it up with fresh-faced strippers. Mike is handed charge of this new production and of recasting the show. There was an opportunity here to give the film the energy and mischief it gaspingly needed. But the audition process is a lazy montage of hip-hop, breakdancing, popping and locking. Reid Carolin’s script is a cross-cultural, cross-class love story that builds out of a lap dance and a monetary transaction. One missed the immersive, audacious and effortless performances and dances, now substituted with been-there-seen-that choreography, a professional dance cast and a shallow, dull romance.
Sadly, the original dancers we loved – Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello), Ken (Matt Bomer), Tito (Adam Rodriguez) and Tarzan (Kevin Nash) – have been traded in for professional dancers handpicked from the Magic Mike Live shows.
Magic Mike’s Last Dance appears to have been designed to serve Channing Tatum’s stage production and direction of Magic Mike Live. Much of the choreography and some of the dancing talent overlap with the stage shows in Las Vegas and London ('Magic Mike Live' opened in London in 2018). A disappointing finale to a fun and hearty franchise.