The unstoppable Magic Mike franchise opts for romance over bromance in this glossy but fluffy Steven Soderbergh-directed threequel, which prioritises our hero’s bumpy road to love over bump ‘n’ grind.
Like a gender-swapped Pretty Woman, Last Dance sees Channing Tatum’s broke bartender Mike reluctantly persuaded to give a scorching, room-roaming lap dance to Salma Hayek Pinault’s wealthy socialite Max. But when she flies him to London to revitalise her dull theatre with a red-hot male-stripper show, neither Mike nor the film can decide if he’s in love, or just in business with her.
Granted, part of the fun of the Magic Mike series is how its mood switches, moving nimbly from the 2012 original’s breezy cautionary tale about stripping to XXL’s (2015) raucous road trip. This time, Soderbergh pivots the movie into romantic comedy, pitching Max’s fiery moods against Mike’s easygoing charm as they battle to get the show right and defeat her stuffy ex-husband’s attempts at sabotage.
There’s a disappointing lack of chemistry between Hayek Pinault and Tatum, however, which hobbles the love story. After that first torrid tumble, their love-against-the-odds feels distinctly forced, their smoochy spats sputtering whenever Hayek starts declaiming about female empowerment.
But around them, Soderbergh constructs a fun, good-looking romp that swaggers through its cute show-staging plot in a succession of athletic audition montages, sweeping up street dancers from London’s pavements to form Mike’s new troupe. They prove their worth by staging a nifty flash-mob dance on a bus, charming planning permission for a new stage out of a stern lady official. Although a quirky, novel-like narration provided by Zadie (Jemelia George), Max’s cynical schoolgirl daughter, proves one of the film’s less successful choices.
Heavily inspired by the real-life Magic Mike Live stage show, the film’s climax comprises a solid 30-minute theatre-based dance sequence. Yet only Tatum’s steamy wet-and-wild erotic duet with a fabulous female dancer in an on-stage splash zone delivers the raunchy delight we’ve been eagerly expecting.
Putting the love story front and centre means we don’t know or care about any of these new buff boys at all – and Magic Mike has always been as much about the bro time as the show time. Without Big Dick Richie, Tito, Ken and Tarzan putting their hopes, fears and friendship on-stage alongside Mike, this last dance feels like a lost chance.
Magic Mike’s Last Dance is released in theaters on February 10. For other upcoming movies, check out our list of 2023 movie release dates.