As long as you can accept the idea that overt sexual gyrations can pass for strong dance skills, then “Magic Mike’s Last Dance” is in step with the previous two films in the franchise.
Channing Tatum reprises his role as “Magic” Mike Lane. He has been forced to take a series of odd jobs after his business went broke during the pandemic. One of his jobs is as a bartender for a fundraiser being hosted by bored socialite Maxandra Mendoza (Salma Hayek Pinault).
When Mendoza hears tales of Mike’s dance days, she convinces him to give her one last lap dance. He’s given up dancing but the big heart that beats inside his chiseled chest leads him to give in to the request.
Mendoza’s life has changed. She convinces Mike to go to London with her where she will use a reputable theater she owns to stage a one-night male dance show. She goes from wanting to stage the production that would give Mike a chance to shine to trying to make the husband she is divorcing mad. Either way, the show must go on as the clothes must come off.
Director Steven Soderbergh shows off his skills at being able to stage the dance numbers as they are full of energy. He does not use the same approach at telling the story but that is not completely Soderbergh’s fault.
Unlike the productions before it, this third offering loses a step when it comes to a script from Reid Carolin that is as flimsy as a stripper’s shirt. Carolin – who also penned the scripts for the first two films – uses a clunky setup to set in motion a lifeless storyline.
Dancing was one of the highlights of the first two movies but the strength was in the characters. Carolin’s scripts gave each of the dancers a distinct storyline that made them come across as very real. The cameo appearances by some of those actors only serves as a reminder of what is missing in the third film.
The only glimpses into the backstory of the dancers in “The Last Dance” are through online videos of them performing. The lack of character development leaves the male dancers as nothing more than physically fit stage props.
Carolin’s approach to the script was to play it safe whether it be the romantic relationship, the struggle for creative freedom or the passion of dance. Pushing those moments into more debatable areas would have given the film some substance.
Give Alison Faulk and Luke Broadlick credit for continuing to bring solid choreography to the franchise. The action picks up with the dance numbers but the time plot gaps run excessively long. The thin story makes the dance numbers look more like moments from a reality competition show than being part of a feature film.
Tatum has only a limited number of dance moments but he makes the most of them, especially a ballet number staged in pouring rain. The pure acrobatics of that number is enough to almost save the film.
It was imperative that the relationship between Mike and Mendoza be a sexual fireball to fill in the story gaps. Instead of a fireball, their chemistry couldn’t even produce a small flame.
Except for the simulated sex at the beginning, Hayek Pinault comes across as bored. The fact she is dealing with a divorce, a disconnect with her daughter and her snooty friends, Hayek Pinault never plays the character as dealing with deep emotional pressure. Her uninspired performance leaves every scene with Tatum looking flat.
The addition of a dull narration – done by a misunderstood daughter – does little to break the doldrums between dances. Children who feel ignored by their parents have become a hackneyed part of cinema.
It has been almost eight years since the second “Magic Mike” movie was released. That was plenty of time to come up with a better story with which to end this franchise. Instead, “Magic Mike’s Last Dance” has all the grace of a dancer with bad knees. And it comes across looking just as painful.
Magic Mike’s Last Dance
Cast: Channing Tatum, Salma Hayek Pinault, Cailtlin Gerard, Alan Cox, Nancy Carroll.
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Rated: R for language, sexual situations
Running time: 112 minutes.