Magic Mike’s Last Dance Review: A Flashy Misfire
It’s that time of the year for Channing Tatum to flaunt his exceptional good looks and sense of humor. Last year, he showed up for Dog, The Lost City, and a few seconds in Bullet Train. This year, Tatum is reprising a role he first played in 2012 in Magic Mike’s Last Dance. This comedy-drama from director Steven Soderbergh concludes the story of former stripper Magic Mike as he is hired by a woman named Maxandra Mendoza (Salma Hayek Pinault) to direct a stage play in London.
Unfortunately, bringing the leader of The Kings of Tampa to a London stage production was the wrong direction as it leads to a joyless, disappointing sequel. The Magic Mike movies are fascinating, as they all share writer Reid Carolin and Steven Soderbergh taking on multiple jobs behind the scenes. However, they all feel vastly different.
The first Magic Mike was a vibrant, multilayered film about a stripper finding a way out to pursue his true passion. Magic Mike XXL negates the character depth and maturity for a fun, breezy road movie that reunites Mike with his crew one last time. However, Magic Mike’s Last Dance takes a sharp left turn in a downhill direction.
While every movie in this series feels like it’s part of a different franchise, this film is the most vastly different. This movie sees Mike as a bartender after his furniture business goes bankrupt. After meeting at the bar, Maxandra hires Mike to perform a fittingly steamy dance that fully uses the stars’ sex appeal. This motivates Maxandra to bring Mike to London, as she owns a theater and wants him to bring a feminist stripper angle to an age-old play. She does this because she wants to get revenge on her husband, who she’s getting divorced from.
The character motivations that drive the narrative forward are exceptionally weak. Maxandra wants to put on this play out of hatred and vengeance for her husband, with the art coming secondary. Mike agrees to direct the play only because he needs money, not because the idea inspires him. He barely seems like he wants anything to do with this. In the stage production, Mike feels like a competent director-for-hire who accepted a paycheck rather than a person doing a passion project for personal reasons. The lack of emotional investment placed into the success of this play makes it challenging to care for the events that occur.
Magic Mike’s Last Dance commits an even bigger sin of being dull. Like an action movie without enough action, this is a dance movie without enough dance and a stripper movie without enough stripping. If you watched the dance-filled trailer, you’d be disappointed that most of the dancing takes place in the final act. This movie limps through its frustrating first two acts for an electrifying climax filled with the dancing and abs that audiences were waiting to see. The last half hour is filled with well-choreographed fun, but the movie feels less like Magic Mike and more like Step Up.
The film brings back a few of the strippers you spent so much loving time with in the predecessor for only one scene. As for the new dancers who Mike trains, you never get a sense of who they are as characters and don’t care about any of them. They’re dancers, and that’s all they are. While it’s commendable for a sequel to do something different from what came before, Magic Mike’s Last Dance swings for the fences and misses by a mile. The lack of chemistry between Tatum and Hayek robs their story of its potential emotional weight. When the story’s stakes are so separated from the protagonist, it’s not easy to care about this flashy misfire.