Magic Mike’s Last Dance (2023) Review
A STYLISH (YET IMPERFECT) LAST DANCE
Released back in the summer of 2012, Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike was a surprising hit, finding a special niche with moviegoers in a tale that was loosely based on now popular actor Channing Tatum’s experience as a male stripper. The film, which starred Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Matthew McConaughey, Joe Manganiello, and Matt Bomer, centered around Mike Lane, a seasoned male stripper whose been in the business for six years, takes on a young protégé (Adam), a young 19-year old who entered the world of male stripping. Magic Mike was largely accepted by critics and fans alike, with the movie grossing an impressive $167 million at the box office worldwide against its paltry $7 million production budget. Three years later, Magic Mike XXL, the follow-up sequel materialized and provided a further continuation of Mike Lane’s story as well as his crew of male strippers. Directed by Gregory Jacobs, the film, which saw the return of most of the previous cast, sees Mike Lane (now retired from being stripper) decides to help his friends put on one last show together, as they embark on a road trip to perform at an exotic-dance convention. While only receiving lukewarm reception reviews, Magic Mike XXL did manage to make its money back by grossing $122 million at the box office against its production budget of roughly $15 million. Now, eight years have passed since the release of Magic Mike XXL, Warner Bros. Studios and director Steven Soderbergh gear up for Mike Lane’s last dance with the release of the film Magic Mike’s Last Dance. Does this long-awaited sequel close out this tale of a Mike’s cinematic journey or is it a just a “too little, too late” for viewers to care about this showmanship franchise?
After witnessing his furniture business belly up during the pandemic, Mike Lane (Channing Tatum) is trying to make ends meet as a bartender, recognizing that he’s aged out of the exotic stratagem of the stripping game. Working a party for influential business savant, Maxandra Mendoza (Salma Hayek), Mike’s old tricks are called back when the woman admits she’s looking for a cheap thrill while going through a recent divorce from her powerful mogul husband. When Mike’s sensual lap dance experience turns into something quite unique for Maxandra, she lures him to join her on a visit to London, where she’s in charge of a theater dedicated to the production of costume dramas. Maxandra wants to spice up the theater and believes Mike can deliver on offering a new direction focus from his stripping experience, putting him in charge of the of the upcoming program to run. Initially hesitant, Mike soon finds his way into the project, assembling an evening “excitement” for guest to indulge in their theatrical fantasy desires, but such a vision is challenged throughout the development, facing a fiery Maxandra and her material and psychological troubles, while Mike himself feels like a “fish out of water” and trying to figure his purpose.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Much like what I said in my review for Magic Mike XXL, I decided to pass on viewing Magic Mike in theaters and finally decided to watch it when it came to television. Personally, I thought the film was just okay. It wasn’t because of the movie’s overall male stripper premise; it was because Magic Mike was just an uninteresting melodrama feature. Looking beyond the film’s male entertainers centerpieces, the story was tad bit bland, certain scenes dragged, weird cinematography editing, and several unwelcoming characters. Granted, I do like Tatum as an actor as well as several of the other cast involved on this project (McConaughey, Manganiello, Bomer, etc.), but this exactly wasn’t “cinematic gold” in the film’s undertaking. True, it was a somewhat small budget “hidden gem” that year, but it’s something that I just felt that it was good, but nothing grand. Magic Mike XXL, the follow-up sequel to the 2012 film, I had more mixed feelings on….to say the least. Why so? Well, to me at least, I felt that the movie was sort of weak in its plot. Of course, I didn’t expect the sequel to a quite a gripping narrative of a group of male model striptease romp, but Magic Mike XXL felt like it was undercooked in a lot of areas, with the feature feeling almost like a “extended epilogue” to the first film and not so much on its own stamp. That being said, I did find the movie to be more funnier and humorous that the previous installment, with a lot of the characters showcasing a more “playful” side to their situations that they found themselves. In the end, however, Magic Mike XXL was just a middling sequel that, while having its moments, didn’t really rise to the occasion, with the movie sort of closing the door on Tatum’s passion project of striptease performances in his “Magic Mike” alter ego.
Flash forward some years later and here we are in 2023 with the release of Magic Mike’s Last Dance, a 2023 comedy-drama, the follow-up to Magic Mike XXL, and the third (and supposed) final installment in the Magic Mike trilogy. Much like everyone, I was quite surprised to hear when it was announced that a third Magic Mike film was going to be made, with original Magic Mike director Steven Soderbergh returning to helm the project along with main principle actor Channing Tatum reprise his role as the lead character Mike Lane. After that initial announcement, I didn’t hear much about the project until the film’s movie trailer began to appear both online and in theaters (during the “coming attractions” preview, which was quite frequent….mind you). From the trailer alone, it looked like to be an interesting ride for this supposed “final outing” of the Magic Mike franchise, with the preview showcasing a narrative that seem a bit more refined / mature from the previous film, yet also seemed to place a large focus on Tatum’s Mike rather than Mike and the other “Kings of Tampa” trope. From that standpoint, i had a feeling that this upcoming movie was going to take a different direction from the previous one, but I knew that was going to be the case (in the back of my mind), so I was game for anything, especially since this latest film wasn’t in particular “on my radar”. That being said, I was quite interested to see this movie because it had actress Salma Hayek (an actress that I love) and wondered they part that she would play in the movie (assuming it was going to be a love interest of some sort). Likewise, the trailer itself looked quite well put together and showcased plenty of flashy scenes of dancing and well-executed choreography. All in all, I was intrigued to see Magic Mike’s Last Dance. I did get a chance to see the film during its opening weekend (on February 10th, 2023), but, due to my workload schedule at work and my backlog of other movie reviews that needed to get done, I had to delay my review for this movie. Fortunately, after a few weeks, I’m finally ready to share my personal opinion on this Magic Mike sequel. And what did I think of this? Well, it was just okay. Despite a more focused narrative, flashy choreography, and a strong magnetic performance from Tatum and Hayek, Magic Mike’s Last Dance feels like a hollow conclusion that doesn’t really stick its landing. There’s definitely some entertainment value, yet the movie lacks the same energy that the previous two installment were able to achieve.
As mentioned, Magic Mike’s Last Dance is directed by Steven Soderbergh, who previously directed the first Magic Mike film as well as other projects such as Ocean’s Elven trilogy and Erin Brockovich. Thus, given his familiarity by starring this franchise all the way back in summer 2012, Soderbergh seems like the most suitable choice to potential to revive the Magic Mike namesake for a third installment as well as closing out the feature in a trilogy style fashion. In that regard, I think that Soderbergh succeeds in returning to what he began (and to close out the franchise on his own terms / merits) by making the Last Dance have a more mature feeling. As stated in the opening scene, the character of Mike Lane is now in his early 40s and gone are the days of wild youth and settling down in a sort of aimless way (having no idea of what to do next), especially after his business belled up. This initial setup sets the stage for something a bit more meaningful and deeper than the previous Magic Mike films, with Soderbergh keeps his attention squarely focused on the journey of Mike Lane and (by extension) Maxandra as the pair hatch up a show that showcases sexual passion and desire of Mike’s strip tease showmanship and theatrical boldness of Max’s taste for flair. While there isn’t a whole lot of commentary messages that the Magic Mike movies have explored, Soderbergh does generate a thematic sense of growth as an artist and as a person that is felt in Mike Lane’s character arc, which can be seeing throughout the endeavor. It offers a deeper understand of Mike as a character and allows him to grow slightly beyond the beefcake male stripper persona; showcasing his directorial skills and performance choreographer. Likewise, Maxandra, who feels lost and wayward in her life, finds passion within Mike’s artistry and proves plenty of growth for her character to follow through, despite facing financial ruin. These attention to detail help differentiate Last Dance from the previous two movies and offer up different façade beyond chiseled, good-looking men dance exotically in front of women. In addition, Soderbergh also makes the Last Dance has a brisk pace and keeps a lot of the film’s scenes and characters moving at steady speed, which makes the feature’s runtime of 112 minutes (one hour and fifty two minutes) go by faster than expected.
Naturally, the film’s third act climax portion of the Last Dance is perhaps the best part of which this installment has to offer, with plenty of well-staged showmanship and excellent choregraphing during this sequence. It sort of reminded me of the ending climax scene from Magic Mike XXL, but with more flashy and visual substance to make the scene. This is probably namely due to Soderbergh’s involvement, who executes such scenes with passion and movement that it makes it a peripheral pleasure to be seeing and builds upon the film’s strength as the preamble of the “Last Dance” outing for the Magic Mike franchise. Whatever one might think of this movie, this particular climax scene of Mike Lane’s show is the best part that the movie has to offer. In the end, while not exactly the best, Last Dance succeeds (in its sum parts) due to Soderbergh’s returning to the series for a more mature and central character focus throughout.
For it’s presentation, I would say that Last Dance is the most “big budgeted” endeavor of the Magic Mike releases and clearly showcases the moment throughout the picture. That’s not to say that “bigger is always better” mantra, but it definitely benefits the movie’s presentation, which adds more visual appeal throughout the background landscape, including the opening scene of Maxandra’s place in Miami to her polish dwelling in London as well as the impressive Rattigan theater auditorium. Even pieces of clothing attire and set pieces have a more lavishing and upscale look them, which (again) adds to the overall presentation flavor that the Last Dance has to offer. Thus, the film’s “behind the scenes” team, including Pat Campbell (production design), Lotty Sanna (set decorations), Christopher Peterson (costume design) as well as the entire art direction team and the hair / make-up department, for their efforts in making this movie’s world come alive with such flashy and vibrant ways. In addition, the cinematography work by Peter Andrews is pretty good and helps make those well-staged and choreographed moments come alive with such vigor and passion. Lastly, while I couldn’t find a composer name for the movie’s composition, the score works in the feature as well as the soundtrack that accompany many of the dancing scenes to be spot on, which provides the sensual desire and / or playfulness that the dancing sequences call for. All in all, well done on that front, which is nothing of a stretch of the imagination as the previous Magic Mike films were also able to capture those moments beautifully as well.
Unfortunately, Last Dance does struggles to maintain itself in several crucial areas, with large points of criticism that I felt held the feature back from being the best of one of the trilogy. How so? Well, for starters, there is a certain type of “spark” that is missing from the entire project. It’s kind of hard to say or exactly pinpoint down the right way, but there are several contributing factors. Soderbergh’s direction and Carolin’s script shaping try to emulate the sober message that the first film was able to achieve as well as the playfulness of the second installment, but ends up failing to connect to those particular aspect points in that regard. From the story angle, Last Dance takes the established character of Mike Lane and isolates him in London, with only the character of Maxandra for him interact with a lot. It’s definitely a bold choice to make in the franchise, especially since it takes a certain type of “fish out of water” narrative angle that I mentioned above, but comes at the expense of that somewhat familiarity. The Kings of Tampa, Mike male model trope that he performs with, is absent for this feature (save for a brief cameo). This makes the scope of the film’s world rather narrow, especially since a lot of the side characters are left rather thin and / or underdeveloped (more on that below). This also becomes a problem as for some of the camaraderie and the somewhat sex appeal has left the Magic Mike brand in this movie, feeling a bit hollow in comparison to its predecessors. Thus, despite the maturity and better in-depth story in a few key areas, feel like the Last Dance has been watered down and lacks the excitement and that spark connection to the previous ones.
Considering that notion, Last Dance also ends up being a rather predictable journey. Again, I didn’t expect for the movie to be incredibly deep or methodically within its narrative construction or hoping for any type of curve ball to be thrown at the last minute, but the story itself (plot points or character development) seems rather rudimentary and formulaic to the touch, which makes the Last Dance a very predictable endeavor, with a conclusion that’s clear as to where it wants to go right from the get-go. This mostly derives from the feature’s script, which was penned by Reid Carolin, who definitely has his writing skills in the right place in a lot of the movie’s setup / premises scenario, but lacks the precision and overall execution to make those said ideas fully fleshed out properly. This makes the story (as well as dialogue) rather basic and almost missing out of something. It’s hard to say what it is, but there is definitely something lacking in the script that could’ve been expanded upon (certain ideas) as well as character development.
Another big (a to me crucial area) that the movie fails in is the overall conclusion to the feature in both regards to the Last Dance and to the Magic Mike franchise altogether. The film’s ending is okay-ish and deliver a somewhat closure in a few areas, but what’s presented feels a bit underwhelming as if the actual ending was cut and left on the editing room floor. Even more so, the movie’s ending doesn’t create a very satisfying finality to Mike Lane’s journey in the Magic Mike franchise, leaving (of course) the room open for a possible additional installment. However, since it has been stated that Last Dance is in fact the last outing for the Magic Mike brand, the closure of the actual film series feel rather limp and weak, with little to no satisfaction towards the finality of it all.
The cast in Last Dance is solid enough and no one really gives a bad performance in their character portrayals. Yet, the film does seems to lack a sense of memorable characters in the supporting rank and file, which develops in more of the secondary roles been very broad and one-dimensional. That being said, there are a few good ones, including the primary two characters (Mike Lane and Maxandra Mendoza), who are played by actor Channing Tatum and Selma Hayek respectfully. Tatum, who is known for his roles in White House Down, Foxcatcher, and 21 Jump Street, has certainly continues to make a name for himself in his acting career, yet still finds the time to return to one of his more iconic roles once again in reprisal of Mike Lane in the movie. True enough, Tatum is makes for a good as Mike and his enjoyable whenever he’s on-screen, who still shares plenty of natural charisma that is presented whenever he appears. Tatum’s Mike still gives off a more “muted” standoffish bravado, which can be both good and bad, but still manages to make a statement whenever he can, especially through his posture, mannerisms, and physicality of strip teasing nuances. Perhaps the downside to this all is that Tatum’s Mike does shows off more of his dancing or cham in the movie as one might expect. Yes, he’s physically there (he is the main star of the film), but lacks a little bit of development; one can see that there is a lot more to be desired in Mr. Lane’s story arc in the movie, which is a shame to a certain degree. Still, for better or worse, Tatum is solid in the role of Mike Lane, with the Last Dance channeling a more mature (and maybe a bit more reserve) iteration of the character, yet still knows when lay on the sexual nature of temptation through seductive body movement gyrations.
Behind Tatum’s Mike, Hayek, who is known for her roles in Frida, Desperado, and Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, has always been an excellent actress (in my opinion) and has always made her character role quite memorable (be it a major or minor one). Thus, her involvement in Last Dance is indeed a welcomed one and definitely has more of the “star power” and screen presence than any other of the previous actresses that have appeared in the Magic Mike franchise, including Cody Horn, Olivia Munn, Amber Heard, or even Jada Pinkett-Smith. As Maxandra, she is fierce, commanding, and has plenty energy and passion thrown into the mix, which something that Hayek is quite adept and known for her character roles. Thus, her presence throughout the movie is greatly appreciated and, much like Tatum’s Mike, makes for a convincing character in the narrative, especially since Maxandra showcases a sense of vulnerability in a few crucial areas of the story. This also helps the magnetic on-screen chemistry that both Tatum and Hayek share is quite fun and playful; finding the pair to be a perfect match in making the movie’s main scenes work, function, and execute in the proper way. So, all in all, both actor and actress are great in the movie and definitely the best characters that Last Dance has to offer.
In more supporting character roles is the characters that are a part of Max’s life, including her ex-husband Roger Rattigan and their daughter Zadie, who are played by actor Alan Cox (Young Sherlock Holmes and The Auteur Theory) and actress Jamelia George (who makes her feature film debut in the film). The problem, however, is that despite their importance to Max’s life (both past and present), the parts that they play in the Last Dance is sort of undercooked. This is especially felt with the character of Roger, who is merely there to progress a few narrative points along the way, despite being the fact that he is a little bit of the driving force of Max’s ambition to “shake up” the theater production. Cox seems to be a capable actor, but feels like an afterthought in the movie. Likewise, Zadie, who acts as the narrator for the movie, seems underserved and really doesn’t have much in the way of dynamics amongst the main plot. I definitely can see something as she could’ve been easily expanded upon, but it seemed like the script wasn’t too interested in showcasing Zadie’s subplot, which is quite moot. This results in her being a somewhat moody teenager, who a bit snarky to her mom at times. That being said, I did like the “back and forth” banter that she and Tatum’s Mike had. Although, that was pretty much it. Perhaps the only supporting character in this group that actually makes a lasting impression is found in the character of Victor, Maxandra’s personal butler / driver and who is played by actor Ayub Khan Din (Ackley Bridge and Coronation Street). While not as important as Zadie or Roger, Din’s Victor makes for some memorable and humorous bits throughout the movie, especially with his British air of stuffiness and the way he handles Mike’s bravado.
Unfortunately, other Magic Mike characters, including actor Joe Manganiello (True Blood and One Tree Hill) as Big Dick Ritchie, actor Matt Bomer (Doom Patrol and White Collar) as Ken, actor Kevin Nash (The Longest Yard and WWE Raw) as Tarzan, and actor Adam Rodriguez (CSI: Miami and Roswell) as Tito, are (as mentioned above) absent in the feature’s main story and only make for a cameo-like appearance in the film. Thus, their absence is definitely felt and ones of the key components that is lacking in the movie’s undertaking, which is disappointing.
Sadly, the rest of the cast is pretty average and are just simply there. Don’t get me wrong….no one really gives a “bad acting” performance in the feature, but the feature’s time isn’t really allotted them enough to further develop them. This is further demonstrated by almost (if not all) of the male model dancers that Mike and Max assemble for the show, which definitely becomes a problematic, especially since they sort of “carry” the show’s grand finale performance. This includes Theophilus O. Bailey, Ryan Michael Carlson, Harry Carter, Joel Ekperigin, Anton Engel, Jack Manley, Sebastian Molina, Patrick Packing, JD Rainey, Jackson Williams, and Sebastian Melo Taveria just to name a few (as well as a few others). All of these performers are good in their craft as dancer and certainly make a statement when showcased on-screen, yet there is something that rings hollow in their involvement on the feature. It’s nothing on their part, but merely on the script introducing them with very little or no character development to make them memorable. Thus, these particular characters in Last Dance are merely “dancers” in the movie and offer up no real narrative plot points in the film beyond their participation in Mike’s show.
Whisked away to London to help a woman’s desire to “spice up” a theater, Mike Lane reconnects with his striptease roots puts on the show that patrons won’t forget in the movie Magic Mike’s Last Dance. Director Steven Soderbergh’s latest film returns to the project that he started back in 2012 and tries to generate new energy for a sort of “one last ride” for Mike Lane’s journey. While the film does lack in a more well-round story, several fragmented pieces, the omission of past characters, and a somewhat inconclusive ending, it does make up for being a bit more focused on what it wants to accomplish, especially in Soderbergh’s direction, a great visual presentation, a good dose of musical selections, witty humor, and a great chemistry between Tatum and Hayek. Personally, I thought this movie was somewhere between good and okay. Yes, it did have enough charisma, energy, and passion found within its theatricals dances as well as its flashy showmanship, but the story felt utterly predictable and lacked some of the humorous bits that previous installments had as well as the missing “bonding” amongst the male dancers. Still, Tatum and Hayek were solid in their roles, which elevated the movie beyond those criticisms. Thus, my recommendation for this movie is favorable “rent it” as I’m sure fans of the Magic Mike franchise will like this movie and will see it at one point, but maybe just as a rental / streaming option. How does this feature fare in the trilogy? Well, I would say that probably slightly better the Magic Mike XXL, yet I would say that the first one is still the best one. Regardless of that notion, Magic Mike’s Last Dance is a visual appealing (more matured) swansong to Tatum male stripper character that, while not quite as palpable in its narrative undertaking nor in its conclusion factor, still manages to put on a decent show and within its own sexual and passion theatrics frivolities.
3.3 Out of 5 (Rent It)
Released On: February 10th, 2023
Reviewed On: April 18th, 2023
Magic Mike’s Last Dance is 112 minutes long and rated R for sexual material and language