Let’s hope this really is Magic Mike’s Last Dance, because if there’s one franchise that’s played out beyond repair, it’s Steven Soderbergh’s male-stripper movies. Back in the sunny, carefree days of 2012, Soderbergh followed up the commercial success of his Oceans Eleven reboot with Magic Mike, a low-budget, politically and socially aware study of male strippers in California. Showcasing top talents in Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey, Magic Mike was a notably fresh and well deserved hit, a four-star movie with compassion and believably gritty detail about the hard-scrabble life of the young male performer.
Magic Mike was a must-see movie, not just for cineastes and economists, but also for the Mamma Mia and bingo wings set whose disposable cashola provided Soderbergh with an unexpected cash cow; he could make umpteen personal or obscure projects as long as he kept coming back to Tatum, who keeps himself in good shape. Magic Mike XXL, however, was a vacuous, empty sequel that diminished the first film’s work ethic with a glib talent-show narrative, and this misbegotten third part is about as welcome as a free Tesla. Mike’s furniture business has gone tits up, and rather than let down his investors, he agrees to choreograph a West End show in London for posho entrepreneur Maxandra Mendoza (Salma Hayek, replacing Thandie Newton who thought better of this mid-filming and walked). Max is somehow replacing her stuffy period play at the rather ratty ‘Rattigan Theatre’ with a non-stop male striptease extravaganza, as you do, and Mike’s task is to put together a squad of buff guys and teach them routines to thrill the ladies.
When Max’s precocious daughter quizzes Mike about why he needs to put on the show, she provides a line about societal economic disparity, but Soderbergh has a tin ear for London life in general, and the laughable results (stoic butlers, dithering MP’s) are straight outta Mary Poppins. A scene in which a stuffy Westminster council decision maker changes her mind about giving the show permission due to the performers spontaneously grinding themselves into her on the top deck of a London bus is agonisingly retro; isn’t that what all stuck-up women need to persuade them, to relax and enjoy random strangers grinding their crotches into them on public transport?
Nope. A running joke that gets at least three unwarranted call-backs is how delighted Max‘s child is by Mike’s performance; she’d be a lot more likely to think that the increasingly vapid Mike was a complete dick. London is presented as ridiculously squeaky clean, untypically friendly and Soderbergh is happy to provide free ads for every possible service from Fortnum and Masons to Paddy Power. We climax, if that’s the word, with a ridiculous finale in which Mike, who has promised that he’s never going to dance again, suddenly produces an immaculately choreographed routine that we have not seen him rehearse and prepare in any way. Fitting right into that Valentine’s Day sh*tbox slot that the 50 Shades of Grey movies made their own, Magic Mike’s Last Dance is a soiled day-glo thong in the gutter that you’d cross the road to avoid; the box office may ring, but the bell tolls for Soderbergh’s considerable talent which has come undone here like his protagonist’s side-fastening pants.
A Warner Bros. Pictures Presentation, “Magic Mike’s Last Dance” slides into UK and US cinemas February 10, 2023. Thanks to Warner Bros UK for big screen access to this movie.