Magic Mike's Last Dance


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Magic Mike's Last Dance
"Pleasant enough."

The first Magic Mike is a messy drama of mentorship, bound up in notions of masculinity. In the shadow of the financial crash, with a then 30-year-old Mike taking lessons from Matthew McConaughey's Dallas and providing wisdom to Alex Pettyfer's Adam. His goal then was to bring together enough to start a business, so he won't be a 40-year-old stripper.

He failed.

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That's unfair. In a voiceover that feels as much of school essay as exposition he's described as a millennial but however buff Channing Tatum might be he's still on the demographic side of that cohort described as 'geriatric'. In this, his Last Dance, he's given a further chance to reinvent himself with his own mission serving as a proxy for others' emotional conflicts.

Mike is picking up work as a bartender. That's a not uncommon second job in film; he shares it with Leonard from The Knock At The Cabin. His introduction is no less revelatory, working at a party where one of the guests (Caitlin Gerard, reprising her minor role from the first film) makes him and his profession known to his employer, her host. Maxandra Mendoza (Salma Hayek) is going through a complicated divorce, but Mike might be the solution.

I don't know whose wish fulfilment is most prominent here. Soderbergh seems to have had fun with the first (he didn't direct the second), and he clearly liked the font enough to bring it back. That was old fashioned enough to have the cast feature in a credits montage, here it's just a vintage seeming version of the studio logo. Tatum produces, almost all his surviving stage colleagues return, and Hayek gets to play a character who appears to have specific pajamas and co-ordinated eye-mask for transatlantic flights on her private jet.

Though it may not quite be her private jet. There's still some dispute about shared assets, including a theatre. It's named for the family, Rattigan. Whether that's meant to be a reference to the playwright famous for works about sexual repression and cultural mores or they had a deal for the letters to dress the exterior of the Clapham Grand is uncertain. There's also apparently a sand and gravel pit near High Wycombe. There is one closer to Little Marlow that's been in Star Wars Kenobi, and that bit of Buckinghamshire produced a fair amount of Sarsen stone, but it's the middle four letters of that which'll matter more. We get a fair amount of exposition through a dinner with her pals, including, amongst others, Marcus Brigstock. His is not perhaps the only unusual choice.

The other shared assets include a daughter, Zadie, a début role for Jemilia George. It's her voice that provides voiceover, and she and irascible factotum Victor (Ayub Khan-Din) provide expository briefing in front of the camera too.

I can't find a credit for cinematography, but Soderbergh did both that and editing for Magic Mike XXL while Gregory Jacobs helmed. He may have done the same here, but I can't swear that the palette or other chocies is as interesting in the third instalment as the first. If nothing else, the scale's different. This has older heads, if not wiser ones, but as I said it's hard to tell whose wishes are being fulfilled: the 40-year-old stripper or the millionaire in her fifties who whisks him away to a change of career in London.

Reid Carolin writes again. This is his third Magic Mike movie too. He's only got five films to his credit, four with Channing Tatum (one is the one with a dog, called Dog), and, almost improbably, one about the Rwandan Genocide.

Magic Mike is an unlikely multi-media franchise. It's not only got a course correcting second sequel in this, Last Dance, but at the same time manages to join The Producers and Hairspray in being a film of a stage show of a film. There's a stage show in it too, the play at the Rattigan replaced with a "one night only extravaganza" features (very briefly) Joshua Griffin ,who was so vital to BAFTA-worthy short Too Rough. That there's a play within the play conceals just how much is at play here.

Start with the theatre itself. Exterior in Clapham, just round the corner from a chain bookmakers. The interior from the actual Magic Mike stage show, currently in Vegas and also in London, the latter in the Hippodrome Casino, coincidentally in walking distance of another of that chain of bookies. More importantly, given that the theatre is ostensibly named after Rattigan, the price of tickets for the seperate tables we see. You can get a standing ticket with "a small perch" for somewhere around £39 before booking fees, or four seats around a premium table for just £149 each. There's some higher, some lower, some couches, some packages (pun perhaps intentional) that include the opportunity to meet the cast and access to the Permission Lounge at £299. Weighted against the cost of going to see the actual show, Magic Mike's Last Dance is a bargain.

The problem with selling things is the price. Soderbergh's Ocean's trilogy went wandering on the middle leg, and didn't come that far back on the third. The first Magic Mike film covers a few months and not more than a few miles, it makes Miami seem somewhere exotic when imagined from the shores of Tampa. They're roughly as far apart as Newcastle and London and they've perhaps equally wild nightlife. The cosmopolitan and metropolitan don't feature in the cocktail list for the Permission Lounge but you can get something confident or attractive for just £14.75. In researching this piece I found a consumer review for the stage show where a patron complained that their table service had opened a second bottle of bubbly without telling them the first had run out, and then charged them. I must admit that this seems closer to the authentic strip club experience than any quantity of tanned torsos and eroticised exercise.

Relocating to London brings several oddities. There's a bus-top sequence that is meant to sway a bureaucrat played by Vicki Pepperdine. It was genuinely fascinating to see the show within the show threatened with legal consequences for building regulations rather than any form of morality connected to licensing. That legal maneuvering would seem to include brand protection and product placement, most notably for the show itself.

I liked the first film for many of the same reasons I liked Soderbergh's The Limey and Haywire, these were character driven stories about grief and betrayal and debts of honour that were rooted in particular milieux. I have issues with Last Dance in much the same way I did with The Rise Of Skywalker. It seems more intent on furthering a franchise than telling a story. It's pleasant enough, relying on the apparently tried and tested formula of mixing montages of manflesh with long stretches of single dances with a nice little story about self-discovery, but "pleasant enough" is intentionally faint praise.

There was a head shaking sequence that reminded me of Verhoeven's Showgirls, and the mechanical and commercial exploitation of flesh has been better explored recently in Titane and Crimes Of The Future. Tatum's role here is roughly parallel to that of Matthew McConaghey in the first film, but here he's not got grandparental responsibilities to a newcomer. Instead it's a troupe of capable dancers and a love interest whose capability and quality feels like catering to a particular demographic. I struggle not to be cynical about something that does feel cynical. I'm quite happy for films to make me happy, but I know that I'm paying for it. The problem, as previously stated, with selling things, is the price. The last dance might have been saved, but on this evidence, as a force, it is spent.

Reviewed on: 10 Feb 2023
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Magic Mike's Last Dance packshot
Mike takes to the stage again, following a business deal that went bust, leaving him broke and taking bartender gigs in Florida. He heads to London with a wealthy socialite who makes him an offer he can't refuse.
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Director: Steven Soderbergh

Writer: Reid Carolin

Starring: Salma Hayek, Channing Tatum, Caitlin Gerard, Kevin Nash, Adam Rodriguez, Alan Cox, Nancy Carroll

Year: 2023

Runtime: 112 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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