Magic Mike: Last Dance

Before we start looking at the latest in the Magic Mike series, Last Dance, I have to say that I am obviously not the target audience for these movies, but I really enjoyed the first two movies. Unfortunately, this new edition does for the first two movies what Staying Alive does for Saturday Night Fever, in the sense that it is as far removed from the originals, and not in a good way.

Former male stripper Mike Lane is at a loss. His dream business has collapsed, and he is now a bartender, working at a charity event for a wealthy businesswoman, Max Mendoza, who is in the middle of a messy divorce. Discovering that Mike used to dance for money and experiencing his skills first-hand, she invites Mike to London, where she owns a theatre. To get back at her ex-husband, she wants to spice up the production, a stuffy, old-fashioned melodrama, with a strip show and hands the reins to create it to Mike.

Everything is in place for a Magic Mike movie. Original director Steven Soderbergh returns to the franchise, as does original script writer Reid Carolin. It even starts like a Magic Mike movie, with a very steamy dance routine that Mike performs for Max, which is just this side of pornographic. So far, so good. The trouble starts when the story shifts from Miami to London and has a plot more like a Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney musical from the 40s. We have a theatre, let’s put on a show!

Starting off with the worst montage to represent London, with shots of souvenirs you’d buy from some tacky pop-up store in the city, the film gets bogged down with the problems facing Mike and Max, not only putting on the show but their own relationship, which is more about business than physical. A new collection of male dancers are brought in, but where the first films worked so well was that it was more an ensemble story, learning about the dreams and ambitions of the men. We learn nothing about these new guys, so they become just bodies.

So where does the connection with the sequel to Saturday Night Fever come in? The disco phenomenon that hit the screen in 1977 was more than just a chance for John Travolta to strut his stuff on the dance floor. It was a gritty, sometimes tough film about growing up on the mean streets of New York, and dreaming of escape. The 1983 Sylvester Stallone directed sequel stripped everything that made the original so great to deliver a tale of Travolta making it big on Broadway. The same has happened to Mike. Remove him from his environment and place him in a drab melodrama stripped of the male bonding, dreams and hopes and brotherhood that the originals gave us.

The dance routines are good but few and far between. There are flashes of the things that made the first films so enjoyable, including a sequence on a bus that is far too short. Even Mike doesn’t get to dance too much but when he does, you remember just how good he is. Instead we get a pointless narration, battles with Westminister Council and a butler who shows him how to do up his tie???

The performances are mixed, with the British cast looking slightly stiff and theatrical. Thankfully the film is saved by the two leads: Channing Tatum and Salma Hayek Pinault. Salma sizzles as the firey Max and she always gives her roles passion and attack. Tatum as Mike still has the charm, the charisma and the star quality that makes him such a watchable actor. When the pair are on screen, they sizzle, nonemoreso than the opening dance which is pure sex with their clothes on. Sadly they are let down by a script lacking in joy and wit.

Magic Mike: Last Dance is a huge disappointment. It delivers nothing that the fans have enjoyed in the past. Even Soderbergh seems to have given up with his formulaic direction. Drab, dull and lacking any real bite. Best advice is to watch the first two films and then watch The Full Monty, which gets the put-on-a-show far better than this does.

2 out of 5

Director: Steven Soderberg

Starring: Channing Tatum, Salma Hayek Pinault, Jemelia George, Juliette Motamed, Ayub Khan-Din, Alan Cox

Written by: Reid Carolin

Running Time: 112 mins

Cert: 15

Release date: 10th February 2023

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