Magic Mike’s Last Dance

After shuttering his business during the pandemic, Mike Lane (Channing Tatum) has taken a bartending gig at a charity fundraising event in a spectacular Florida oceanfront home.  People are gossiping about their hostess Maxandra (Salma Hayek Pinault), looking very glum, reportedly in the midst of a divorce from her media mogul husband.  But when she hears about her bartender’s past from a guest (Caitlin Gerard, "Magic Mike") who recognized him, Max makes him a generous offer for “Magic Mike’s Last Dance.”

Laura's Review: D+

After taking a franchise break on “Magic Mike XXL,” director Steven Soderbergh returns, inspired by having watched Tatum stage his live version of the show.  But while the dancing may find audiences moaning, the script will surely leave them groaning.  Tatum's producing partner Reid Carolin’s (“Magic Mike,” "Dog") lazy, inconsistent narrative features mind-numbing dialogue and I didn’t believe the relationship between Mike and Maxandra for a second.

While Mike is reluctant to go back to performing, Max’s huge monetary offer combined with her obvious emotional distress persuades him.  He begins rearranging her furniture and, in keeping with the film’s supposed female empowerment theme (you can have it all if your husband is a billionaire), advises her to signal immediately if he crosses her comfort zone (‘I’ll slap you,’ she informs him, a line that’s supposed to become a running gag but never does).  What follows is more simulated soft core sex than dancing, the next morning dawning to the two in bed together.

Mike assures Max he has no intention of collecting her fee, but she changes the terms, offering him ten times as much to come with her to London for a month.  She has plans for him, but won’t divulge what they are other than to assure him it will be strictly business as their ‘magical’ night shouldn’t be messed with.  Ensconced in another lush home, Mike spars with butler/driver Victor ("Sammy and Rosie Get Laid’s” Ayub Khan-Din, the film’s most well drawn character) and meets her prickly adopted teenaged daughter Zadie (Jemilia George), who declares her mother a ‘First Act Queen’ who never finishes what she starts, pronounces she’s writing a novel but provides sociological observations about dance in voice over throughout, a weird distraction with little bearing on what we’re watching.

So after a shopping spree and lunch with accusatory Zadie (‘are you hooking up with him?’), Max takes Mike to the Rattigan Theater which she tells him she owns and which is currently booked with a run of ‘Isabel Ascendant,’ a very trite looking period love triangle.  He’s to take over the direction and completely rejigger the production to give audiences the same experience he gave her.  What follows are the usual audition montages (all new dancers, four of the old relegated to a brief Zoom chat) and obstacles to opening, Max’s husband Roger Rattigan (Alan Cox, "Young Sherlock Holmes") sicking the city’s permitting board on them.

While we see little sparks of jealousy from both Mike and Max when each gets too intimate with other dancers, there is no chemistry between the two, largely because Hayek Pinault fashions her character as a spoiled basket case who yells a lot about what she wants while continually changing her mind (just as early on Mike says the show is ‘not a strip show’ only to declare it one a while later).  Max (I just can’t with the ‘Maxandra’) never comes across as a real person.  While Tatum plays our familiar Mike, he seems a bit lost here and his ‘vision’ turns into mostly the same old same-old.  Asked by Roger how he likes the theater, Mike responds ‘She’s been a pleasure to be inside of,’ a grammatically and metaphorically tortured piece of dialogue which may be the worst line in a movie this year.

The most inventive choreography on display happens, oddly, on a bus, where Mike’s dancers ‘woo’ the dowdy bureaucrat Edna Eaglebauer (Vicki Pepperdine, "My Cousin Rachel") and we don’t really get to see Tatum actually dance until the film’s big finale, one oddly reminiscent of his “Step Up” breakthrough.  Zadie’s character does an abrupt and largely unexplained about face, but this is a film where a number of details simply drop through a trap door.  Once upon a time, “Magic Mike” was fresh, but with this installment, it’s been milked until it’s turned sour.

Robin's Review: C

By no stretch of the imagination am I a fan of the “Magic Mike” franchise, but I did my duty and sat through “MM’s Last Dance.” I watched the latest entry and while it is different than the previous films, it is very much the same.

Mike’s custom furniture business has gone under, like many others, because of the COVID pandemic. Now, he works as a bartender for a caterer and is recognized by one of the guests, a former lap-dance client. She, in turn, introduces him to Maxandra Mendoza (Salma Hayek Pinault), a wealthy woman who makes him an offer he cannot refuse.

The pair arrives in London and Mike’s new job is to put on a strip show, but not like any seen before. Mike and Max gather together (in one of several clichéd montages contained herein) a collection of the best dancers in Europe. Then, the next clichéd montage, auditioning the hunky talent, introduces us to what I consider the only reason to give “MM’s LD” a look – the incredibly athletic and graceful guys who fill the screen, though none seem to have an actual personality.

Considering that there is not an original note in all of “Magic Mike’s Last Dance,” the grace and talent of the dancers gives us something to keep us occupied. The romantic soap opera and the “let’s put of a show!” vibe make this (hopefully) the real last dance for the franchise. One can hope.

Where the original grounded itself in the Chippendales culture of femme-centered entertainment of the early 2000s, this latest (last) entry is a femme fantasy with Max getting all the things that a woman wants – I guess. Channing Tatum, who is hired by Max to put on the high class, one show only, is oddly quiet through most of the film and shows a limited vocabulary with “S’up” one of his greetings. But, there is nothing that takes place that would indicate he is actually a choreographer. (Spoiler alert: he is not.) Hayek, on the other hand seems, to be having fun chewing scenery and wear all the spectacular clothes. I hope it is all over as the title suggests.

Warner Brothers releases "Magic Mike's Last Dance" in theaters on 2/10/23.