Last dances in any show are meant to wow the audience and leave them craving for more. But while the last dance in Steven Soderberg’s Magic Mike’s Last Dance will leave you breathless from the sexiness of it, as Channing Tatum’s finale for the sometimes stripper, it doesn’t feel too magical.
When we first met Mike Lane in Magic Mike, with Steven Soderberg in the director’s chair, he was stripping to start his furniture business. In Magic Mike XXL, he stripped to smooth over trouble with the business and, you know, just to enjoy a last hurrah with his beefcake friends. In Last Dance, with Soderberg back in the director’s chair, Mike’s furniture business has gone under, he has hung up his tie and thongs and taken up bartending at catered events, one of which happens to be a charity event thrown by Salma Hayek Pinault’s Maxandra Mendoza Rattigan.
One incredibly sexy (fan’s self) lap dance later — where Max stipulates “no happy endings” and Mike refuses to take the money once the stipulation is transgressed — Mike finds himself on a jet to London on Max’s whim and the offer of a job, without sex. That job is giving a stodgy theatre act a strip makeover as a message to Max’s estranged husband, whose family owns the theatre. Mike and Max go looking for dancers across the city and we get a delightful montage of very fit men pulling off incredible moves.
Now here’s the thing. One of the biggest draws of the Magic Mike series, at least for me, is watching Tatum’s perfectly sculpted pecs, abs and glutes front and centre in sinfully sinuous motion. Unfortunately, there is hardly any of that. His two dances come right at the beginning and right at the end and you are left breathing a little bit faster after those performances but there is hardly anything in between, except for a little demonstration to dancers on how to ask for a woman’s permission before picking them from the audience.
The incredibly fit men dancing on stage are ogle-worthy, but they all feel like extras without any backstory and nothing like the scruffy men — Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, Kevin Nash, Adam Rodriguez — who we’ve learnt to love from the previous films. While one would expect them to show up in the last dance, and I was really hoping they would, all they are are grids on a laptop for a video call. The dances themselves are well-choreographed but way tamer — except for the two Tatum numbers — than we’ve been taught to expect from the Magic Mike team. Gone are the ties and thongs and the intimate experience, making the performances largely impersonal.
Tatum and Hayak Pinault’s chemistry is sizzling in what is primarily a love story, but somehow even that feels underexplored with unnecessary and easily resolved obstacles diluting the focus. Hayak Pinault has fun playing the temperamental, flighty and spoilt socialite and Tatum is as gracious and charming as ever but sometimes feels like a doormat with his chivalry. The awkwardness is pushed up a notch by the fact that the whole story is narrated by Max’s teenage daughter Zadie. I mean, seriously? The story of mum’s sexual reawakening as narrated by her underage daughter? Nope. And let’s not talk about the problematic “I am a feminist” stance where a woman can get whatever they want and whenever they want, provided they have the money for it from a wealthy estranged husband.
While Magic Mike’s Last Dance makes you smile every time Tatum dances, with or without (especially without) clothes, he deserved a more magical send-off.