Magic Mike's Last Dance (United States, 2023)

February 10, 2023
A movie review by James Berardinelli
Magic Mike's Last Dance Poster

Magic Mike’s Last Dance exemplifies Hollywood’s obsession with established properties. When Steven Soderbergh released Magic Mike in 2012, it was designed as a stand-alone film with a beginning, a middle, and an end. However, its box office success (well over $100M domestic vs. a $7M production budget) demanded a sequel. The second film, Magic Mike XXL, made only about half as much as its predecessor and cost twice as much but the end result was still in the green. Now, some eight years later, Channing Tatum is once again inhabiting the character of Mike Lane, and Steven Soderbergh has been lured back to the director’s chair. Magic Mike’s Last Dance isn’t as devoid of entertainment value as Magic Mike XXL, but it fails to justify its existence. With a rambling narrative and too little energy (even in the dance sequences), this is a classic example of milking a teat that has run dry.

The story opens by re-introducing us to Mike. With his dancing days long behind him and his furniture business having gone belly-up (courtesy of the pandemic), he’s making ends meet by bartending. While pouring drinks at a super swanky charity event, he meets the socialite organizer, Max Mendoza (Salma Hayek Pinault), who learns about his past and offers him $6000 for a lap dance. One thing leads to another and Mike soon finds himself in London working alongside Max to choreograph a modern-day reimagining of a classic play filled with strippers and dancing. The two are drawn to one another and find themselves falling in love but do everything in their power to resist their urges. Okay, it’s not Shakespeare but it’ll do.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Magic Mike’s Last Dance isn’t how meandering the storyline is (both of its predecessors, also from screenwriter Reid Carolin, suffered from similar issues) but that Soderbergh can’t upshift into the extra gear that made the first movie so compulsively entertaining. There’s very much the sense that everyone, including the filmmakers, are going through the motions. The dance sequences are lavishly overproduced but lack the verve evident in their Magic Mike counterparts. And, although there are plenty of bare (male) chests, that’s as far as it goes insofar as flesh is concerned. The nudity in Magic Mike was tame but titillating. Excepting a butt shot, it was mostly absent in Magic Mike XXL. Here, there’s nothing. And if you’re going to a movie about strippers, isn’t a little nudity de rigueur?

To be clear, though, the reason Magic Mike’s Last Dance doesn’t work has nothing to do with Channing Tatum’s decision not to bare his butt. A much bigger issue is the lack of chemistry evident between him and co-star Salma Hayek Pinault (yes – I know that sounds preposterous, but the two simply don’t gel). Perhaps this has something to do with an eleventh hour recasting. (Thandiwe Newton dropped out at the last minute for those oh-so-ambiguous “personal reasons,” opening the door for Pinault to step in.) Tatum is fine – he slides back into the role of Mike with little difficulty, his abs are as washboard-firm as ever, and his moves are as fluid – but there’s something lacking. For a lot of the story, Mike is on the periphery. The climax brings him back toward the center but it feels half-baked.

Although Pinault and Tatum are the film’s “name” stars, they are frequently upstaged by Ayub Khan Din, who plays Max’s butler. The 61-year old BAFTA winner is better known for his writing than acting but his presence in Magic Mike’s Last Dance rivets. His penchant for dry, wry humor belies his domineering appearance and I soon found myself wishing there was more of him and less of everyone else.

Throughout his career, Soderbergh has enjoyed playing in different genres, proving adept at drama, action, and comedy. Magic Mike’s Last Dance is one of Soderbergh’s most notable misfires and, although one can justifiably argue that sub-par Soderbergh is as good as a solid effort by many other directors, that doesn’t change the end result: there’s something unsatisfying about this motion picture. Hopefully, the title is accurate. By this time, I think we’ve seen all of Mike there is to see.

Magic Mike's Last Dance (United States, 2023)

Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Channing Tatum, Salma Hayek Pinault, Ayub Khan Din, Jemelia George, Juliette Motamed
Home Release Date: 2023-04-18
Screenplay: Reid Carolin
Cinematography: Steven Soderbergh
Music: Season Kent
U.S. Distributor: Warner Brothers
Run Time: 1:52
U.S. Home Release Date: 2023-04-18
MPAA Rating: "R" (Sexual Content, Profanity)
Genre: Drama/Romance
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1