Director: Steven Soderbergh Starring: Channing Tatum, Salma Hayek Pinault, Ayub Khan Din, Jemelia George Running Time: 112 minutes
Channing Tatum is rarely a guy who has a problem with peaks, but Magic Mike’s Last Dance might find its peak too early. Mike is down on his luck but adamant that he’s out of the dancing game, until a lonely woman of wealth, Salma Hayek Pinault’s Maxandra, makes him an offer he can’t refuse for a private performance. Through a slowly sweeping camera and under cover of director’s Steven Soderbergh’s signature sensual blue hues and darkness, Mike gives Maxandra the dance of a lifetime.
Physical, bold and increasingly unbound, they both work themselves up to fever pitch – we barely need to fill in the gaps in the post-coital follow up, we’ve seen plenty already. Teasingly, Maxandra says how honoured she was to receive Magic Mike’s last dance. The rest of the movie is fun and fine but struggles to live up to that high bar, just as the overall picture is a watchable but inessential follow up to the all-time banger XXL.
Enamoured with Mike’s moves, the impulsive Maxandra flies him out to London with her for a secret project. Separated from her husband, she wants Mike to direct a stage show of dance at a theatre she’s gotten from the separation, throwing out the stuffy comedy of errors that’s been held there for years for something sexy, empowering and new – wanting to share the feeling she got from Mike grinding against her and stick it to her ex in the process. It’s a half-baked idea, and Magic Mike’s Last Dance, propelled as it is by Tatum’s charm, feels a bit bogged down in this let’s put on a show idea. Mike is game but unsure of himself taking a role behind the stage, he’s interested in but not sure where he stands with Maxandra, and that uncertainty permeates throughout the story.
A Zoom call back to the States with some of the previous films’ cast underlines an issue – after stealing the show in the previous film, we’re left only with Joe Manganiello from the neck up for a brief cameo. The dudes rock delight of XXL, the camaraderie just isn’t there with the dancers hired for this London show, who go mostly unnamed, barely get lines and just smile and look pretty. They’re great dancers, but the character is left to Salma and her small supporting cast, a cheesily lovable grump butler and a moody teenage daughter who also gives this film some unneeded narration. The will-they-won’t-they between Salma and Channing is the film’s main narrative thrust and just like Mike tries to teach his dancers, you can’t just thrust willy-nilly, there needs to be more to it. The story’s narrow focus runs out of steam sooner than expected, but Last Dance never seems that invested in it to begin with. How is the show Mike puts on? Well, as I say, those boys are great dancers.
It’s the dance that Last Dance wants you to see. Tatum’s grace with such a huge frame has been a huge part of his star power going back to Step Up, and it genuinely is magic to see him perform, in extensive, choreographed sequences on stage, or in spontaneous expressions between Maxandra and Mike. Maxandra wants to sell a fantasy in their show, and how well Last Dance works for you might depend on how much you buy into the same one that it’s selling you.
Soderbergh, himself a guy who came out of retirement with faux-reluctance, has said that he was on board to make this sequel after seeing the Magic Mike Live Show, and this film definitely comes across as a hearty endorsement of that project – the London setting, where the live show has most recently left its hat, makes most sense through that lens. The uncharacterised dancers, it turns out, are also from that same show, so while they’re no Manganiello, it makes for a good proof of concept to see more of what they have to offer. As adverts and victory laps go, this gives you what you came to see, but ideally you’d like to be left wanting more.(3 / 5)