‘Magic Mike 3’ review: It doesn’t save the best for ‘Last’
Mike Lane is now a bartender. His custom furniture company went bust during the pandemic, and he’s mixing drinks at a swanky Miami charity event when he meets Maxandra Mendoza (Salma Hayek Pinault), an embattled London socialite on the verge of a messy divorce. She could use some distraction, and Mike, she learns, happens to have one up his sleeve, along with other clothes that will soon be discarded. After some cajoling and negotiation, as well as a bit of soul-searching, he gives Maxandra what starts out as a private lap dance and soon turns into a hypnotic home gym routine, complete with bars and beams (mostly hers), albeit one hell of a tricky descent. Maxandra, overwhelmed by Mike’s passion and artistry, is unwilling to let him sneak away.
Hollywood obviously isn’t either. Magic Mike’s Last Dance is the third feature film about a Florida stripper, played by a perfectly cast Channing Tatum, and his title – which could be interpreted as a death knell for the franchise or for Mike himself (don’t worry, he’s alive). – is best understood as a continuation of a series-long joke. From the moment we first met him more than a decade ago, Mike was what you might call an enthusiastic ecdysiast, forever on the verge of giving up his thong-and-dance routine. His abundant gifts — shaking his hips, baring his abs, and sending the ladies and more than a few gentlemen into fits of lust — were matched only by his apparent desire to do something else for a living.
That made him a reluctant hero of our time, though one of the revelations of this unexpectedly resilient series is that every era gets the Magic Mike movie it deserves. The first, directed by Steven Soderbergh, mixed playful fantasy with touches of harsh reality; It was both a sly showcase of Mike’s qualities and a willful snapshot of a tough post-recession moment. The exuberantly entertaining Gregory Jacobs’ (2015) ‘Magic Mike XXL’ (starring Soderbergh as cinematographer and editor) was an explosion of pure, unfiltered enjoyment that reflected the broader, more diverse appetites of cinema audiences.
Eight years later, that audience has dwindled, and Magic Mike’s Last Dance, which puts Soderbergh back in the director’s chair, is lucky to even see the inside of a theater. Originally slated to be an HBO Max streaming release (like Soderbergh’s midpandemic features Let Them All Talk, No Sudden Move, and Kimi), it’ll hit theaters nationwide this weekend before Valentine’s Day, maybe hoping to be pulled some of the girls’ nights out that welcomed the first two, not to mention the “Magic Mike Live” shows that opened to huge acclaim in London, Las Vegas and Miami. There’s clearly a large, sultry audience for this type of erotic audience, though you wouldn’t necessarily recognize it from mainstream American films, which have become a depressingly genderless, seduction-free zone by comparison.
The new film positions itself as a corrective to this condition, albeit as a surprisingly healing one. If the first two films (written, like this one, by Reid Carolin) celebrated the fleeting transactional encounter, Magic Mike’s Last Dance takes a quizzical look toward a long-term romance. Admirably ambitious, if conceptually jumbled, it short-circuits many of those signature “Magic Mike” amusements – including some lust and plenty of laughs – and signals its heady ambitions with a dramatic change of scenery. After this sensual prologue, the story whisks us across the Atlantic, where Mike restlessly accepts a new London calling as Maxandra’s houseguest and probationer.
He is the new artistic director of the Rattigan Theatre, a family-owned establishment that Maxandra acquired as part of their separation agreement. This handsome if musty-looking venue (played by London’s Clapham Grand Music Hall) has never hosted a strip show, but Maxandra sees revenge as a dish best served hot: she’s eager to please her soon-to-be ex-husband ( To annoy Alan Cox) and stoke his jealousy, she believes theater could benefit from Mike’s va-va-vum vision. Ditto for the play that opens there, Isabel Ascendant, a limp-looking Regency drama about a young woman who decides whether to marry for money or for love.
Maxandra herself made that choice long ago, and with the new and improved Isabel she intends to present her female audience with a more satisfying and subversive third option. Her goal of creating an insane spectacle that focuses on women’s desires is obviously that of the film as well. The success of this venture will depend heavily on her own intelligence and courage, and Hayek Pinault, who has navigated her own Hollywood career arc from sex symbol to veteran actress to shrewd entrepreneur, could, as a woman comfortable with her authority, could hardly be more convincing. At the same time, Maxandra can only achieve her ambitions by trusting Mike’s instincts and expertise, and Magic Mike’s Last Dance becomes both a celebration of female desire and an invigorating vision of gender parity in action.
It gets a few other things too, namely a light riff on “Sunset Blvd.”, a tongue-in-cheek upstairs-downstairs comedy, with important witty backing from Maxandra’s know-it-all valet (Ayub Khan Din) and her sardonic teenage daughter Zadie (Jemelia George ). It’s Zadie who writes and delivers the film’s narrative, an arcing, distancing reflection on the nature of dancing that signals from the start that we’re no longer in Tampa. Instead, we find ourselves in a light-hearted, backstage melodrama where the original film’s happy lasciviousness, with its penis pumps and firefighter costumes, gives way to an infectiously sweet show energy.
Isabel’s desires are given shape and voice by a female lead (Juliette Motamed, “We Are Lady Parts”), who in turn is supported by a ragtag cast of talented male dancers, none of whom have showered for dollar bills before. The task of recruiting these actors and negotiating the logistics of stage promoters and stage permits might remind you of the mechanics of Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s” trilogy, especially when a local officer (Vicki Pepperdine, bringing life and warmth to a buttoned-up dress stereotypically) becomes involved to the goal of too short a bureaucratic raid sequence. The routines themselves, choreographed and edited with Soderbergh’s usual fluidity, might remind you of the dance moves from Tatum’s “Step Up” films – a fond reminder of just how much his own personal and professional history shaped this story.
The Rattigan show eventually comes together, even if the movie takes a little longer. Aside from a throwaway online reunion scene, the absence of Tatum’s “Magic Mike” co-stars (Matt Bomer, Adam Rodriguez, Kevin Nash and Joe Manganiello) is painfully felt, and while the show’s up-and-coming young dancers are all gifted performers, Soderbergh and Carolin didn’t give them much in the way of dialogue or personality. This is disappointing, albeit intentional. Mike is less of a dancer than a mentor this time, and even a chiseled body like his has limitations. He can still twist, thrust and hurl across a rain-swept stage, but his glory days as a bachelor party attraction are firmly behind him, which is both a source of obvious relief and an unmistakable melancholy.
And so it makes some sense that the boisterous male camaraderie that fueled the first two films should recede into the rearview mirror. Magic Mike’s Last Dance looks fearfully and a bit sadly to the future, but also to the embarrassing, endlessly tense state of heterosexual relationships in early 21 desire. Her chemistry as an actor is rarely questioned, although the fate of her characters, who explore a relationship marked by differences in age, money, background and power, is very strong.
“Not a happy ending,” Maxandra warns Mike about that first dance in Miami — a tongue-in-cheek euphemism that begs a perfectly honest question about her long-term prospects. She may become his boss and benefactor, but their viability depends on them seeing each other not just as romantic ideals but as creative equals. The film walks a half-awkward, half-fascinating balancing act: Can Mike’s talent as a male entertainer finally become a legitimate source of professional gratification? And an expression of ardent, unfeigned desire? This may be the most far-fetched fantasy – but perhaps, as this film imperfectly but touchingly suggests, these are the only ones worth pursuing.
“Magic Mike’s Last Dance”
Evaluation: R, for sexual material and language
Duration: 1 hour 52 minutes
Play: Launches in general release on February 10th
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/movies/story/2023-02-07/magic-mikes-last-dance-review-channing-tatum-salma-hayek ‘Magic Mike 3’ review: It doesn’t save the best for ‘Last’