What to Watch Verdict
Magic Mike's Last Dance is all flash and no substance, a disappointing end for the surprise trilogy.
The dance numbers are fun to watch
Steven Soderbergh remains a technical master
Channing Tatum and Salma Hayek Pinault have minimal chemistry
Fails to deliver on the theme it pushes
An unsatisfying “last dance”
The first thing I want to do in this review is give Magic Mike its due. When the first movie came out in 2012 I had next to zero interest in seeing Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey and company play male strippers, even if it was directed by Steven Soderbergh. Critical reception, however, swayed me to check it out and the movie was a true surprise — featuring a top three Tatum performance, another entry in the then McConaissance, it was fun but also had an engaging story beyond the sight of bare-chested men doing hot and heavy dances. It birthed an unlikely movie trilogy. But unfortunately, like many franchises, it has seen nothing but diminishing returns since.
Magic Mike XXL lost Soderbergh as its director and the depth of storytelling the original had, but at the very least it was a hoot as its characters went on a road trip to what was basically "StripperCon."
The steady decline continues, though, with Magic Mike's Last Dance, which brings back Soderbergh but like XXL fails to capture the winning formula of the first movie.
Magic Mike's Last Dance picks up with Mike Lane (Tatum), his furniture business officially gone and now working as a bartender. His luck changes when he meets Maxandra Mendoza (Salma Hayek Pinault), a wealthy woman going through a bitter divorce. Mike is able to reignite a spark in her through dancing that inspires her to bring him to London and put on a show that will give others the same joy she experienced.
The actual movie is never able to light that same kind of spark. There are bound to be those who have some fun or enjoy the impeccably choreographed dance sequences, but Magic Mike's Last Dance is a hollow shell of the original.
Chief among the issues for the latest Magic Mike is that the chemistry between Tatum and Pinault isn't great. Their love story is the central relationship in the movie but it is unconvincing. Multiple characters take the time to state that these two characters are in love, but you'd be forgiven for feeling like you missed something, because there's little evidence of it on-screen. Respect for each other, sure, but the love story is totally unconvincing.
Similarly, the character arcs for both of these characters are not satisfying. Pinault's Max is called "The Queen of First Acts" because she apparently doesn't see anything through. So does she rise to the occasion and prove everyone wrong? No, she folds and it instead is Mike who picks up the mantle and has to finish things for her.
Mike at least has a complete arc. He starts with no confidence in being able to put on this kind of show but is ultimately able to create something that people truly seem to enjoy. That change in him just kind of happens, though, we barely see him work at it.
When we pull back to look at Mike's arc through the entire trilogy, it's hard to say the character reaches a satisfying conclusion. He supposedly finds his passion (basically a high-class version of McConaughey's original character) and his love, though neither feel particularly earned or lasting.
The other big problem with Last Dance is that it doesn't successfully execute on its theme. Through narration by Zadie (Jemelia George), Max's daughter, we are given brief history lessons on the historical significance of dance, how it originally was a form of communication, ritual and storytelling. While there are some sequences that try to replicate that (Mike and Max's first dance, the dance team convincing a character to take a different course of action and Mike's big number in the final show), the movie doesn't commit enough to this idea. So many key points and emotions are just blurted out through exposition dumps rather than shown to us in interesting ways. It doesn't have the confidence to use the language of dance that it so proudly touts.
One area where we can not fault the movie is the look. Even when Soderbergh was filming movies with an iPhone, he knew how to make striking images for the big screen, and he still does. There are also some fun performances from the Magic Mike's Last Dance cast in George and Ayub Khan Din as Max's butler, Victor, as well as the team of dancers.
If your expectation with Magic Mike's Last Dance is to simply see a group of gorgeous men perform sexy and impressive dances, then that requirement is definitely met. However, from where this surprise franchise started to where it has ended up and the talent involved, it is a disappointing curtain call.
Magic Mike's Last Dance premieres globally on February 10. Learn more about other currently playing and coming soon new movies here.
Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Peaky Blinders, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Saturday Night Live, Only Murders in the Building and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd (opens in new tab).
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