The ethos and promise of the Magic Mike franchise has always been that a woman can have whatever she wants. These films, framing the male stripping industry under an entertaining yet thoughtful light, give the viewer the thrill of a girls’ night out, while also putting these talented men front and centre. It makes sense, then, to dedicate the third and final film in the franchise to the spin-off live performance, London West End smash-hit Magic Mike Live – except that Magic Mike’s Last Dance feels more like a contemporary dance GCSE project (led by grating anthropological narration and clumsy pacing) than a truly satisfying Magic Mike film.
2012’s Magic Mike introduced Channing Tatum’s impossibly charismatic Mike, plus his mentor, his buddies, and a fresh young stripper he took under his wing, while the brilliant sequel Magic Mike XXL just let the boys have fun on the road, having established why we love them. Last Dance, meanwhile, sees Mike whisked away by Max (Salma Hayek Pinault) to make her ex-husband jealous and put on a stripping show in his beloved theatre – except this time, Mike’s all on his own.
The film plays more like a Working Title rom-com than a seductive, explosive picture that gives women what they want.
The film serves as a terrific advertisement for the live show, as the near-silent dancers Mike hires, all smiles and liquid-fluid moves, are the real ones from London – but it means the film lacks the infectious charm of the previous film. Before, it bubbled from the kinetic energy between all these men: triple threats who could sing, dance and act, whereas here, these skilled dancers just aren’t movie stars.
One of the major problems of Last Dance is also, somehow, that there is too much talking. Save an impossibly sexual and risqué opening dance between Tatum and Hayek and a pleasant jukebox homage to the live show (which nods more to Tatum’s rain-sodden dancing days in 2006’s seminal dance film Step Up than his beloved showmanship as Mike), the film plays more like a Working Title rom-com (kooky British tropes of a fussy butler and cutaways to the London Eye aplenty) than a seductive, explosive picture that gives women what they want. Show, don’t tell – talking about chauvinism is boring, being a feminist and dancing is not. And isn’t that truly Mike’s only job?