Magic Mike’s Last Dance review: Less a movie, more an expensive theater ad

Channing Tatum in Magic Mike's Last Dance.Warner Bros.

Magic Mike’s Last Dance finds Channing Tatum returning as snake-hipped dancing powerhouse Mike Lane, but sadly, third time isn’t a charm in this tired and tawdry end to the franchise.

Magic Mike’s first dance was in 2012, with Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, and Matthew McConaughey starring, and the title character stripping at an exclusive club to fund his furniture store dreams.

Mike’s second dance – subtitled XXL – was in 2015, and went nationwide, the male dancers embarking on an eventful road trip across America.

Magic Mike’s Last Dance now completes the trilogy by taking things international, the title character traveling to London to stage a stripping spectacular. Unfortunately, it’s one that concludes the franchise with a dull whimper, which is disappointing as the movie kicks off with a spectacular bang.

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Magic Mike’s first last dance

Proceedings commence at a lavish fundraiser, which Maxandra Rattigan (Salma Hayek) is hosting at her equally lavish home. Though she’s about to become Maxandra Mendoza again due to a messy divorce, which in turn is making her something of a mess.

Mike is bartending at said event, and when Max hears about his past exploits, offers him $60k for a dance. Mike initially declines due to those stripping days being behind him. But it doesn’t take him long to relent for one last dance.

Mike locks the doors. Clears the decks. Checks the shelves for structural integrity. Then embarks on the most erotic lap dance in the history of the Magic franchise. One that sees day turn into night, and ends with the pair of them in bed. It’s a transcendent experience for Max, and one that inspires her to make Mike an offer he can’t refuse.

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Magic Mike meets Pretty Woman

That offer involves purchasing Mike for a month, and taking him to London. Though while the deal smacks of Pretty Woman – and romantic sparks do indeed fly between the pair – he’s less arm candy, and more part of a revenge plot against her soon-to-be ex-husband.

First, though, there’s the obligatory montage of London sites as they touch down (mercifully not soundtracked by The Clash). Followed by a cringeworthy commercial for department store Liberty. And the introduction of Max’s daughter, who is more mature than her mom, a tired trope that adds little to proceedings. Then it’s down to business.

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Max wants Mike to take charge of her husband’s theater, to stage a show that brings ecstasy to every woman who enters; transporting them to the promised land she visited while Mike was moving around her like water. So no pressure then.

The show goes on

What follows is a film that harks back to those Judy Garland-Mickey Rooney pictures from the 1930s and ’40s, where a show is cast, rehearsed, and performed to save the day. Only with more oiled-up abs. There’s even a ticking clock, with Mike having just a month to mount a revolution on the London stage, using the greatest set of strippers ever assembled.

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Auditions are fun, both in a studio, and on the streets around Piccadilly Circus. While rehearsals are entertaining, as Mike whips the guys into shape. Endeavours to strike a balance between stripping and dancing (though that difference is never properly explored). And searches for a mind-blowing finale.

But what doesn’t work is a sub-plot about the City of Westminster – at Roger’s behest – trying to shut the show down. It’s there to inject drama and jeopardy into the third act, but bureaucracy and governmental red-tape aren’t really what this franchise is about.

Magic Mike’s very last dance

And so to the show itself. There’s a strong female lead – fitting in a film about women taking charge. Though when the audience screams at her desire for a bad-boy who answers texts, it seems less empowering, and more a bit sad.

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The male dancers are superb, though most of their moves are shot in uninspiring fashion; a surprise considering Steven Sodergergh is behind the camera. Indeed, there are times when show looks less like a theatrical event, and more like a spicy episode of Britain’s Got Talent. Which is probably not what Steve was going for.

A spot of ‘Pony’ by Ginuwine connects back to the beginning of the overarching story in satisfying fashion. While Tatum very nearly saves the day with what – if the title really is to be believed – is Magic Mike’s last dance; a rain-soaked wonder that chart’s his character’s rocky relationship with Max. Though It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia recently did something similar, but with more emotional resonance, during the show’s 13th season.

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No matter how impressive the moves however, it all feels like a tacky promotion for the Magic Mike show that’s currently playing on the London stage, as well as around the world. Turning a film that’s supposed to be about love into a glorified – and very expensive – advert.

The Verdict: Is Magic Mike’s Last Dance good?

Magic Mike’s Last Dance starts well, the opening sequence an all-timer, and the early scenes in London a nice contrast to what’s come before.

But the romance between Max and Mike never quite rings true, while in spite of the charm of the two leads, their verbal sparring isn’t as entertaining as the banter between the blokes in those previous installments. Which is made all the more obvious when that former crew Facetimes Mike, and reminds us what we’re missing.

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Both the leads are also overshadowed by Ayub Khan-Din, who plays the role of stoic butler Victor – think John Gielgud in Arthur. But while the part itself is something of a cliche, Khan-Din nails it, dispensing pearls of wisdom while delivering laughs in hilariously deadpan fashion. He’s so good that the film suffers whenever he’s not onscreen.

Magic Mike’s Last Dance Score: 2/5

Last Dance is a lackluster end to Mike’s story. It’s admirable that writer Reid Carolyn, director Steven Soderbergh, and star Channing Tatum tried to do something different this time out. But at times Part 3 feels like a cynical cash-grab. While on this evidence it’s clear that much of the appeal of these films came from the talented ensemble. So by ditching that crew, Mike also loses much of his magic.

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Magic Mike’s Last Dance hits screens on February 10, 2023. While for more movie reviews head here.