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February 12, 2023


written by: Reid Carolin
produced by: Nick Wechsler, Gregory Jacobs, Channing Tatum, Reid Carolin
& Peter Kiernan
directed by: Steven Soderbergh
rated: R (for sexual material and language)
runtime: 112 min.
U.S. release date: February 10, 2023


It’s hard to believe that director Steven Soderbergh’s “Magic Mike” came out a little over a decade ago. Considering the director starting out with “Sex, Lies, and Videotapes” in 1989 and gave us “The Girlfriend Experience” in 2009, it shouldn’t have come as that much of a surprise that he helmed a movie revolving around the lives of male strippers from Miami. The modestly budgeted feature became a summer hit, but no one would’ve thought it would kick off a trilogy.

But, screenwriter Reid Carolin might have had this all mapped out all along, considering he not only wrote the first movie (influenced by star Channing Tatum‘s experiences as a male stripper in Tampa), but also wrote the first sequel, 2015’s “Magic Mike XXL” (edited and lensed by Soderbergh, who passed directing duties on to Gregory Jacobs) and now he’s back with “Magic Mike’s Last Dance”, which finds Tatum returning as the titular lead and Soderbergh in the director’s chair. Deemed as “The Final Tease”, the second sequel’s title elicits a chuckle since it’s hard to believe what it promises.



What does come as a surprise is how good this sequel is, offering a more focused story than the last outing and certainly some unexpected turns and challenges for Mike and his “Magic”. Part of that is due to the fact that Carolin’s story focuses mostly on Mike Lane (Tatum) and only briefly includes his dancing cohorts from the last movies early on in a Zoom call. If this is indeed Mike’s “last dance”, it’s kind of appropriate that this sequel doesn’t introduce us to a new group of dancers for us to get to know. After all, that was done in the last two movies. There’s at least a couple writing tropes on display, such as the “fish out of water” scenario and all the drama that comes with putting on “one big show”, yet it’s impressive to see how Tatum and Soderbergh can do all that in such an engaging manner.

“Magic Mike’s Last Dance” opens in Miami, as we catch up with a now-40-year-old Mike, who’s working as a bartender for a catering company after his furniture business tanked during the COVID-19 pandemic. While working a party being thrown by wealthy businesswoman, Maxandra “Max” Mendoza (Salma Hayek Pinault), he is recognized by a woman that works as an attorney for Max. At first, she can’t place him and then she remembers her bachelorette party, where Mike played a “cop”. Mike’s past occupation and talent comes to the awareness of the hopes-to-soon-be-divorced Max, who asks him to join her after the party dies out and offers Mike an insane amount of money to “entertain” her privately. Reluctant at first, Mike agrees and starts out with a lap dance and the two wind up waking up in the same bed the next morning. What transpired between those two events had such an impact on Max that she demands that he join her as she returns home to London, offering Mike a job where his talents would be put to good use.

Initially, Mike explains that he can’t just drop everything and leave, but subconsciously he’s just saying that to convince himself. It’s not like Mike has a thriving career and he’s not in a relationship nor does he have any kids (that he knows of). So, what’s holding him back? Well, understandably, such an offer seems too good to be true and there’s some natural trepidation. Go to London and stay with a rich and beautiful woman who will pay you $60,000 for one month of work…and you don’t even know what the job is? Well, it’s easy to hear London calling when you put it like that.



Once they arrive, Max explains that her powerful and estranged husband, Richard (Alan Cox), owns a theater in the West End that she oversees. Known for programming predictable costume dramas, Max wants to revitalize the venue and incorporate Mike’s stripping prowess and dancing know-how into a brand-new production that will immerse the audience, providing with an experience close to what she experienced with Mike back in Miami. So, essentially she wants Mike to be a theater director, not just in charge of choreography but creatively heading up the whole production. While Max believes in Mike, this is still something he’s never done before, and while having unlimited funds to do so helps, he must still contend with the challenges that come with working with fiery Max and her own personal issues, scouting the right male talent, and dealing with pesky local historic district architectural codes.

It doesn’t take long to figure out that “Last Dance” has no interest in giving viewers more of the same. Of course, there will be seductive and acrobatic movies, but gone is the bro camaraderie from the last two movies and that’s just fine considering it would just feel repetitious in this second sequel. That being said, there will be some who come for that and will feel “Last Dance” is lacking something. It’s not. Honing in on Mike is a good move. He’s not a young buck anymore and focusing solely on him offers something different and new. Carolin and Soderbergh don’t necessarily get all introspective with Tatum’s character, but separating him from his support group (we do briefly see Mike Bomer, Joe Mangionello, Adam Rodriguez, and Kevin Nash reprise their roles, but it’s really only to establish how solo Mike is now) reminds us the synchronicity Tatum has with this role.

It helps that Tatum is still in great shape too. There’s a bit of a joke about that on the way to London aboard Max’s private jet. She compliments his physique – still processing the impression he left on her within the last 24 hours – and he credits his genetics, while moving the vegetables on his plate off to the side. Indeed the private routine that Mike does for Max in Miami is quite a thing to behold and I found myself smirking and tilting my head to try and figure out just how certain moves were accomplished between both of them, while also wondering what shooting such a specifically choreographed sequence was like for Tatum and Hayek.

They may not share apparent chemistry together, but they sure are fun to watch, whether their bodies are entwined or if they’re just having a conversation. Maybe it’s due to the familiarity we have with these actors, which finds us wondering where exactly they will go with these characters. We kind of have an idea at least with Tatum, since he’s played Mike before, but it’s intriguing to watch Hayek, who thankfully gets more screen time than expected. Sure, she’s second-billed, but I didn’t expect her to play such a prominent role and it’s nice to see her playing more than just the kind of boisterous comic relief she’s played lately (like her over-the-top role in those “Hitman’s Bodyguard” movies). Without a doubt, both actors play well off each other.



The London setting serves to differentiate “Last Dance” from the other “Magic Mike” movies and it’s where we spend the majority of the story. This is where we meet Max’s daughter, Zadie (Jemelia George) a mature teenager who knows more than everyone thinks. Carolin gives the character narrator duties that doesn’t always work, as she waxes poetic on the history and philosophy of dance. Was she that impacted by the hunky American who stayed with she and her mother for a month that she took a deep-dive research into the art form? There’s no indication of that here, but whatever. We also meet Victor (Ayub Khan Din) who serves as Max and Zadie’s all-knowing-but-mostly-silent butler, chauffer, and cook, rounding out yet another new character for the out-of-place Mike to interact with.

“Magic Mike’s Last Dance” is more interesting when Mike is tasked with turning a stuffy theatrical production into a hot and sexy experience. There are inevitable montage scenes where Mike and Max are auditioning dancers and even meeting some in the London streets. It’s curious to see when and how they encounter these men, some of which are twisting and turning their bodies into confounding human pretzel shapes. The cinematography and editing during these moments, all done by Soderbergh himself, who elevates what these expected scenes with an engaging visual flair.

There are a handful of hiccups for the production of the big show, but there’s a resolution for one in particular that’s quite amusing. When Mike and his new crew learn that their show is threatened by local beauracratic red tape, then do a little reconnaissance following Edna Eaglecauer (Vicki Pepperdine). the licensing clerk responsible for making decisions that could halt the show from opening. They learn her daily routine to and from work, find out what kind of music she’s into, and wind up performing a hilarious choreographed and costumed “Swan Lake” snippet for her as she rides the bus. It’s much more than what we were given in the last movie, like when a challenge was issued for Manganiello’s Big Dick Richie to go into a convenience mart and “put a smile” on the female cashier’s face (eye roll) with a beekcake innuendo. At least this scene is clever, fun, and unexpected, relying more on specific timing, and a purpose that serves the overall storyline.

There are two other female characters that standout in unexpected ways in “Magic Mike’s Last Dance”, proving the sequel is actually interested in providing titillating entertainment for a certain demographic. One of the actors from the previous costume production at the theater, Hannah (Juliette Motamed) makes a case for herself to stay on board and find a place in new show that Mike and Max will be putting on. Motamed’s performance is a jolt of energy and she has a fitting role in the final number. Speaking of energy, Kylie Shea has an impressive dance number with Tatum’s Mike, involving water that allows for dramatic slipping and sliding all over the stage. Shea is a professionally trained American dancer off camera, who plays a ballerina here, and her performance with Tatum is definitely the movie’s most memorable.

Viewers who have never given these movies a chance, are missing out on how much more there is than just sexy men shaking their moneymakers. Like the previous movies, “Magic Mike’s Last Dance” has its share of dramatic highs and lows, but there certainly feels like there’s more going on here in terms of structure. There are certainly more highlights and interesting bodily action than the previous two chapters while still retaining the core appeal of those movies. Overall, Soderbergh has delivered a surprisingly more compelling endeavor than anyone expected.




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