Compared to 2015’s Magic Mike XXL, Steven Soderbergh’s sequel, Magic Mike’s Last Dance, was a box-office whiff. The third Magic Mike movie is intended as the final installment in a trilogy starring Channing Tatum as a male stripper with a heart of gold, a side business in carpentry, and a thoroughly explored philosophy about women’s pleasure. But unlike the previous Magic Mike movies, it never built a fandom or became a center of online discussion.
Blame the eight-year gap between the last film and this one. Blame the struggle to get people to watch movies in theatrical release. Or more accurately, just blame the endless problems with the movie itself. But for whatever reason, the film barely made a ripple when it hit theaters in February 2023.
Magic Mike’s Last Dance is now streaming on Max, the platform it was originally made for. Like any film hitting streaming, it now has a new chance at finding an audience. But the Max release isn’t likely to move the needle much, given what a dispiriting, calculated, half-assed project it is. Frankly, there’s only one scene in Magic Mike’s Last Dance that’s really worth watching, at least for fans of the previous movies, and it comes early in the film.
For streaming subscribers (and impatient digital renters), the sequence starts about eight minutes in, as Tatum’s character, Mike Lane, is called to meet with his employer of the moment, a rich, bored woman named Maxandra (Salma Hayek Pinault). COVID pulled Mike’s carpentry business under, and he’s doing odd jobs, like bartending for the catering company Maxandra hires for her latest fundraising gig. Depressed over her impending divorce, Maxandra heard from one of Mike’s exes that he does a “silly dance” that might cheer her up. She’s willing to offer him $6,000 for a private show.
Mike says he doesn’t dance anymore — but lured by the money and stung by the “silly dance” description, he changes his mind, clears the surfaces in Maxandra’s house of potted plants and knickknacks, and gives her a solo performance that doesn’t even try to masquerade as anything other than highly theatrical, only-in-the-movies foreplay.
The scene is in fact a “silly dance,” but it’s the one part of the movie that really feels like the films that preceded it — particularly like Magic Mike XXL, with its lengthy lectures (some of them in poetic form, delivered by Donald Glover) about how fulfilling women’s fantasies is a sacred art. Mike starts by pulling up his shirt and putting Maxandra’s hand on his abs as if they had healing powers. Then he climbs all over her and her furniture, treating her to a lap dance that includes carrying her around with his face buried in her crotch, doing pull-ups on her knickknack shelves while she yanks his pants off, and crawling across a table on all fours with her under him, pushing her along the surface with his groin.
It’s all faintly hilarious. For those capable of buying into the fantasy it’s selling, it’s also kind of sexy, if only because both of the performers have the physical strength and grace to pull off these kinds of moves. And if nothing else, it’s a prerequisite for diving into the generally funny interviews the actors have done about the experience of filming it. Either way, the scene is treated with the straight-faced, near-religious gravity the Magic Mike movies have always brought to sensual dance routines. The actors are basically miming slow-motion, acrobatic sex, while keeping their clothes on and their faces solemn.
The rest of the movie is just a downhill run, starting with the shot immediately after the dance sequence, where it becomes clear that Mike and Maxandra followed their mimed sex with actual sex. Which is fine, except that from there, audiences are asked to believe that Mike has fallen for Maxandra and will do anything to stay in a relationship with her, even though she’s volatile, manipulative, dishonest, abusive, and above all, written so shallowly and erratically that it’s hard to see the appeal. Especially since Mike himself seems more like a prop than a presence for most of this movie. The carpentry work that defined him in Magic Mike is gone. The friends who defined him in Magic Mike XXL have been sidelined, apart from a quickie Zoom check-in to acknowledge they exist. His philosophizing about his role in the world is over. All that defines him in this movie is his romance with Maxandra — which, inexplicably, is framed and narrated in elaborately poetic, nonsensical language by Maxandra’s prickly teen daughter.
More significantly, the movie was expressly built around promoting the real-life Magic Mike Live stage show, and it gives the main characters pretty minimal and uninteresting arcs while it focuses on their efforts to produce a similar strip performance. The movie’s big climax is a lengthy dance performance by a bunch of new performers who mostly don’t even get character names, let alone personalities. (Fair notice: Other Polygon viewers liked it more than I did. If you’re fine with the lack of stakes or specifics for that sequence, and just want spectacle, staging, and some muscular guys taking off their shirts, it starts just before the 88-minute mark.)
Tatum dances again in that sequence, and the choreography is compelling — he and dance partner Kylie Shea, who also never gets a character name, slide around all over a wet stage together. But there’s no sense of stakes in any of it, apart from the question of whether Mike and Maxandra’s underdeveloped, unpleasant relationship will continue, or they’ll split up after the show.
That’s the fun of streaming, though — viewers can dip in and out at leisure, and focus on the fun bits without committing to the tedious ones. They can also shop around for something more enjoyable to watch after Tatum and Hayek Pinault’s $6,000 acrobatic routine is over. The original Magic Mike and Magic Mike XXL are also both on Max — and on Netflix, as well as many digital rental platforms.
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