Star Rating:

Magic Mike's Last Dance

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Actors: Channing Tatum, Salma Hayek, Caitlin Gerard

Release Date: Friday 10th February 2023

Genre(s): Comedy, Drama

Running time: 112 minutes

After his furniture business implodes during the pandemic, Mike (Channing Tatum) is adrift, single, and nearing 40. However, when he meets wealthy socialite Maxandra (Salma Hayek Pinault) and the two spend a passionate night together, she lures him to London and makes him an offer he can't refuse - bring his unique brand of dance into a stuffy stage-play...

'Magic Mike' and its sequel, 'Magic Mike XXL', were unusual animals. You had a top-line cast of real actors, a serious director in Steven Soderbergh, a strong script from Reid Carolin, yet the nature of both movies was one of distinct joy, frivolity and pleasure. In fact, 'Magic Mike XXL' was basically a himbo road-trip movie, complete with a stunning dance sequence set to the Backstreet Boys and a deep connection achieved through good MDMA. 'Magic Mike' had some grit, particularly in how Matthew McConaughey's manager was essentially stringing Mike along with empty promises, and how the stripper life was itself hollow at its core.

In 'Magic Mike's Last Dance', the story isn't necessarily geared towards fantasy, stripping, or even sensuality. Mike is the story's catalyst rather than the story's focus. That's Salma Hayek Pinault, and her journey towards regaining her own sense of agency after a tricky divorce, not entirely unlike 'How Stella Got Her Groove Back', 'The First Wives Club', or 'It's Complicated'. And like these movies, Salma Hayek Pinault's character is concerned with two things - her own pleasure, and her own kind of revenge. That's where Mike comes in. What follows is a behind-the-curtains story of putting on a show, revitalising a tired stage play, and throwing in some not-so-subtle advertising for the 'Magic Mike Live Show' in London.

The chemistry between Pinault and Tatum is so powerful on screen that, with a scientific breakthrough, it could be harnessed to provide clean, renewable energy for generations to come. It's not difficult, of course, considering that they're two incredibly attractive people. Yet, frustratingly, 'Magic Mike's Last Dance' builds it up in the first act, then ignores it entirely in the second act, before barely acknowledging its existence by the third act. It's bizarre, because for all of the dancing and the music, you're really just there for them and the smouldering and the tension. You're robbed of it, and made to sit through a lengthy montage of dancers and production woes. Still, the bait and switch aside, there's a lot to like about 'Magic Mike's Last Dance'.

Soderbergh's sharp eye for colour and setting matches the live show, all deep colours and movement throughout. As a director and this being his third 'Magic Mike' movie, he knows how to position Tatum on screen for maximum effect, and is equally adept at giving Hayek Pinault a chance to make her mark. It's effective stuff, but again, you're constantly hustled out of the pair of them getting a chance to explore their romance. Instead, it's them trying to bring a live show together. Reid Carolin's script is witty and smart, like the previous movies, and what it has to say about consent and sensuality is admirable, particularly in how it advocates for the pleasure of women of all ages and varieties.

Compared to the previous two, it has its weaknesses and struggles to keep to the beat, but it's still an enjoyable time at the cinema.