Channing Tatum is back as the magic man, and Steven Soderbergh returns to direct Magic Mike’s Last Dance. Written by Reid Carolin, this stripper story has a feminist edge as it introduces a new character played by Salma Hayek who’s at the center of the story. Like the other two films, Last Dance has some electric dance numbers (choreographed by Alison Faulk and Luke Broadlick), with Tatum being as charming as ever. But something is missing from this one, and its rushed conclusion makes those ending moments appear random and out of place.
We first see Mike Lane (Tatum) working as a bartender at an event where he meets Maxandra “Max” Mendoza (Hayek), a wealthy socialite going through a divorce. He goes back to her house, and she offers him $6,000 to “entertain” her — prompting the longest strip dance scene ever. All the whining and gyrating wins Max over enough to ask Mike to travel with her to London and offers him a business proposition. Turns out she and her soon-to-be-ex-husband own a property called the Rattagan, where the play Isabel Ascendent takes place, and she wants Mike to put on a cabaret show at the theater where he is the production director.
In London, Mike lives at Max’s mansion with her daughter Zadie (Jemelia George), who calls attention to the fact that her mother is a scatterbrained spinster with tons of ideas that never come to fruition. Mike shows he’s a capable leader with choosing dancers and puts together a full production, but Max (albeit forcefully) adds her opinions on how things should go as well. Then again, she is the target audience, so shaping the show to her will is the best idea. With one month to organize and put on a one-night performance, they plan to put on the best strip show the UK has to offer.
The film goes through the entire production process from idea to execution. Like any theater show, there is a structure and variety of attitudes and personalities that must mesh together in order for something like this to work. That’s why Max is so desperate for this show to go on. She is a woman trying to create her own reality through this project. She neglects her child, and the people around her, to pursue her own selfish needs. At first, she bosses Mike around, but he goes along with what she says because “no one has ever believed in him like she does.” She isn’t a bad person, just misguided.
The crux of this Magic Mike’s Last Dance is womanhood, embracing aging, showing women that there is life after divorce and that people are worthy of love. Hayek is at the center of this story, and Mike (even though the film is named after him) must fit within her personal narrative. The characters are written with a surprising amount of cooperation and compromise between them and work as collaborators instead of people of opposite genders constantly at war.
Where the film falters is that it stops being about characters and more about the dance numbers. What makes the franchise so enthralling is that it’s a character study about blue-collar folks finding creative ways to make ends meet. Magic Mike’s Last Dance puts a woman in it and calls it feminist. This movie feels so separate it can work as a one-off because the only thing tying this film to the overall universe is a five-minute cameo by former cast members Matt Bomer, Adam Rodriguez, Kevin Nash and Joe Manganiello. Other needless characters are shoehorned into the narrative with no purpose other than being a space holder to pad the run time.
In a moment that feels unearned, the duo reveal their love for each other after one month, then the movie ends. What did the characters learn? Is that it for Mike? He’s going to stay in London and do what? It’s like the production ran out of time, or money, and couldn’t create a proper ending that brings the series to a close.
The film has enough laughs and dance sequences that despite, going on for too long, are fun to watch. If you’re a Magic Mike fan, expect to see less Mike and more everyone else. It is commendable that the script aims to center on women and their needs, but it doesn’t need to be repeated over and over for the audience to get it.
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