Magic Mike's Last Dance Review: A Disappointing Final Entry

"Magic Mike's Last Dance" is a somewhat baffling and disappointing end to an unlikely trilogy. This one sees the return of Steven Soderbergh to the director's chair, with Reid Carolin again penning the script. Rather than the gritty drama of the first film or the delightful fantasy of the second, we instead get a dull romance with paper-thin characters, lame voice-over narration, and rather clean and puritan dance numbers, resulting in a film that feels more like an advertisement for the "Magic Mike Live" show than a movie.

The biggest problem of this movie is that it never fully decides what it wants to be, or who it is meant to be for. The first "Magic Mike" was essentially the male version of Soderbergh's "The Girlfriend Experience," a gritty drama of the business of pleasure amidst the economic crisis. When that film became a surprise hit, "Magic Mike XXL" did a 180 turn and deliver one of the best movies of its decade, trading the economic context and becoming a sports anime where an underdog team tries to make it to nationals. 

Rather than treating dancing like a proper job like the first one, "Magic Mike XXL" treated it like a higher calling, with The Kings of Tampa dancing for the pleasure of giving pleasure, being on a mission from God to deliver pure joy and ecstasy to women everywhere. 

It makes some sense that "Magic Mike's Last Dance" tries to be both, but it is disappointing that it manages to be neither. The film is essentially about putting up a big show, but none of the characters we care about are here, and what little commentary about business or the creative process there is, lands flat.

Romance? Never heard of her

Unfortunately, the problems start with the titular Mike. When we catch up with Mike Lane, he's now in his 40s, and the furniture business he's spent years trying to build has gone under during COVID, so he's now bartending for rich ladies. 

During a fundraising party, he meets Maxandra Mendoza (Salma Hayek Pinault), a rich soon-to-be divorcee to whom Mike gives such a magical lap dance, it completely changes Maxandra's world, inspiring her to bring him to London. While there, she drops a surprise on his lap for once: the chance to do a one-night-only, one-of-its-kind (unless you remember Chippendales has been a thing for decades) striptease performance at a prestigious London theater the family of Maxandra's husband used to own.

As the previous film made clear, Mike works best in an ensemble, as a magical himbo that fixes everyone's problems one dance at a time while helping out his bros express and fulfill their dreams. Here, there is no ensemble, but Mike is still not really a character. We don't get a real sense of what he's thinking or how he feels about anything other than Maxandra. And as for the romance so monumental it replaced The Kings of Tampa? An absolute dud. 

While Tatum and Hayek Pinault have undeniable chemistry, their scenes feel very underwritten to the point where they seem like bad improv. Maxandra is the only character with some actual motivation, but they are as thin as the paper in the single dollar bills thrown at the dancers, seemingly starting and stopping at just revenge. 

Like a bad Step Up movie

But wait, you might say, who cares about the plot? This is a movie about dancing! And you would be half right. While there is dancing in the movie, it kind of feels like an afterthought, glorified cameos from the things people want out of a "Magic Mike" movie rather than things Soderbergh genuinely thinks belong here. 

The problem starts with the fact that the male entertainers are not really characters. The Kings of Tampa? Forget about them, there's a new group of dancers, and most of them barely get a name, let alone lines. For a franchise that spent so much time humanizing male entertainers and treating them as not just objects, but actual subjects, this feels like a betrayal.

Despite endless David Attenborough-like narration about the anthropological history of dancing, the film somehow forgets what type of dance movie this is. With Soderbergh's return comes also a return to his indie roots and the gritty, handheld way he shoots films, but when it comes to the dance sequences he seems to be more enamored with the choreography itself and the way bodies move than in the way body movement makes us feel. 

The dancing is stunning and there is no doubt that the dancers (some of who actually work on the "Magic Mike Live" show) are quite talented, but the whole extra-long final dance scene feels stripped out of everything naughty, everything sexy, everything fun. Rather than Maxandra's dreams of bringing authenticity and ecstasy to the theater, the film brings chastity to stripping. Worse yet, the spectacular grand finale sketch is essentially a beat-for-beat remake of the award-winning dance number from the "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" season 13 finale — both choreographed by the same person.

/Film Rating: 6 out of 10