Magic Mike’s Last Dance (2023)
Magic Mike’s Last Dance (2023)

Genre: Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 52 min.

Release Date: February 10th, 2023 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Steven Soderbergh Actors: Channing Tatum, Salma Hayek, Ayub Khan-Din, Gavin Spokes, Caitlin Gerard, Jemelia George, Juliette Motamed, Vicki Pepperdine

 


 

B

eginning with a hopelessly bizarre voiceover narration (which crops up at ill moments and continues to plague the script, always sounding unfittingly existential even when the mystery of the precocious voice is revealed), 40-year-old Michael Jeffrey Lane’s (Channing Tatum) fate is chronicled. His furniture business has become a victim of the pandemic, forcing him to bartend – a provisional profession that finds him working at a fundraiser event at the Miami home of millionairess Maxandra Mendoza (Salma Hayek Pinault). “What is it that you really do?”

For $6,000, “Magic” Mike is lured into performing a private striptease. After all, it has been a bad day (and week and month and year) for Maxandra, and she desperately needs the distraction. For a woman who professes ignorance in the matter, she gets quite involved in the lap dance, seemingly knowing exactly how to move in a sharply choreographed sequence, which perfectly mirrors Mike’s insistence that he hasn’t danced in a very long time. It just so happens that he hasn’t forgotten a thing, nor has he let himself go, as he’s in peak physical condition, despite insisting that he avoids vegetables at all costs (his physique is chalked up to providential genes). Maxandra uses a similar line about genetics when asked how she got to be rich. It turns out, however, that she married into considerable wealth, which is something of a problem for a film that wishes to espouse feminism and the related notions of independence and power amid widespread male chauvinism; she’s frequently reminded that she’s penniless without her husband’s fortunes and connections, having failed to create her own source of income throughout the years, even with limitless resources and inspiration at her disposal.

“Come with me to London.” With the enticement of a fulfilling job overseas, Mike accompanies Maxandra on an adventure that initially resembles the reverse of “Pretty Woman” (too much so when Maxandra takes Mike shopping) or the lead’s primary situation in “Sex and the City,” complete with a ruggedly lovable butler. All expenses are paid as Mike dually attempts to reimagine a stuffy costume drama (infusing it with stripping) and reinvigorate Maxandra’s passion for life. Sadly, every character here is a stereotype, broadly drawn and generically scripted, doing little to strengthen the sense that strippers can be complex people (indeed, the many featured male performers are rarely identified with a name). Instead, much of the attention is directed toward glorifying affluence and promoting the idea that purchasing arm-candy is a commonplace use for excess riches, as well as displaying male sexuality in a primal, hyper-erotic manner – concepts that have strained to remain socially palatable when the genders were reversed, particularly when reevaluating cinema from the last few decades.

“I don’t dance anymore,” Mike asserts, though that can’t be the case, or there wouldn’t be a movie. And, ultimately, that’s the main appeal; the extreme athleticism exhibited is difficult to dismiss. The last act is essentially an entire strip-show performance, enthusiastic and triumphant, only briefly truncated by cuts (and strangely artsier than obscene, as this entire production is notably less explicit than in the first entry, both in nudity and language). And it curiously takes too long for it to arrive, partly due to mediocre pacing (flimsy family drama slows things down, while a few lines of decent humor – and a nonsensical “Ocean’s Eleven”-type reconnaissance/seduction operation – put them back on track) and somewhat thanks to a limited number of dance sequences, even with the expected montages for auditions and recruitment.

Perhaps most disappointing, however, is Mike’s struggle to transform stripping into higher art – not in his actual success, which is astounding in a stripping-in-the-rain, literally wet dream of a dance routine, but in the design of conflict. It’s all juvenilely orchestrated like a formulaic teen musical (or band-related picture), in which a stuffy bureaucrat finger-wags at the taboo goings-on, threatening to shut down a show that clearly must go on (shifting markedly from the original “Magic Mike,” which also boasted Soderbergh in the director’s chair, utilizing much darker themes, notwithstanding the fact that all three theatrical entries were written by Reid Carolin). And even the finale is blemished with pandering flashbacks (alongside the purposefully paralleling ones), suggesting that viewers might have forgotten what transpired mere minutes ago. If the storytelling wasn’t so uninspired and awkward, it would be infinitely easier to admire the dance troupe’s undeniably spectacular vigor and remarkably sinewy figures – elements that will absolutely entertain the pre-sold audiences this film indisputably targets.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10