The first Magic Mike movie explored the grind (in all senses) of life as a male stripper; the second was a shallow but well-oiled road movie. Producer-star Channing Tatum has described this third and presumably final instalment as “a reverse-role Pretty Woman story that ends up with a lot of dancing in it.” Sadly, it’s never as entertaining as that synopsis makes it sound.
The film begins with Tatum’s retired stripper “Magic” Mike Lane tending bar in Miami, where he’s spotted by Max Mendoza (Salma Hayek Pinault), a glamorous soon-to-be-divorcee with money to burn. After paying Mike $6,000 for the mother of all lap dances – these scenes are genuinely electric – she plays Richard Gere to his Julia Roberts. Impressed by the way he can “move like water”, Max whisks Mike to London to reinvent the creaky old period drama playing in her husband’s West End theatre. She wants it to be sexier and more “empowering” for women, which means we’re guaranteed to hear Ginuwine‘s ‘Pony’ before the credits roll.
At this point, Magic Mike’s Last Dance starts to feel like a cheap made-for-TV spin-off. That’s partly because Tatum’s stripping buddies from the first two movies only appear briefly on Zoom – in fairness, Matt Bomer’s zen Ken still manages to raise a laugh. But it’s mainly because Steven Soderbergh, usually a smart and sparky director, seems to be going through the motions. Max’s theatre (actually South London’s cathedral of camp the Clapham Grand) looks fantastic, but the rest of the city is strangely drab and dismal. Only a deliberately silly dance scene set on the top deck of a London bus has any zing to it.
Then again, Soderbergh isn’t helped by screenwriter Reid Carolin, who appears to have run out of ideas after penning the superior previous movies. When Magic Mike’s Last Dance isn’t borrowing tropes from Pretty Woman – Max even kits out Mike at a fancy department store – it’s desperately grasping for drama in lieu of character development: most of the dancers hired by Max and Mike aren’t even given a name. You know a film is in trouble when a minor planning infringement provides the main source of tension before the inevitable final act triumph.
Tatum has enough charisma to make it all watchable and Hayek gamely throws herself into an underwritten role that might have worked better with a dash of Joan Collins-style high camp. Ayub Khan Din is good value as Victor, the gruff butler who predictably grows to like Mike, but it’s a shame he isn’t given some better lines. Really, it’s hard to shake the conclusion that this threequel only exists for its climax, a series of pin-sharp stripping set pieces including one where Tatum proves in a rather literal way that he really can “move like water”. Great choreography, shame about the movie.
- Director: Steven Soderbergh
- Starring: Channing Tatum, Salma Hayek, Ayub Khan Din
- Release date: February 10 (in cinemas)