The Magic Mike trilogy is the least trilogy-like trilogy out there that isn’t merely a thematic trilogy. The three films share many of the same characters, but are very unlike each other in tone and message. It’s a concept befitting Steven Soderbergh, a director known for his eccentric stylings and being all over the place in direction, tone, and moving language. Soderbergh’s first entry in the franchise skewered male stripping as much as celebrated it, commenting on the economic divide that motivates such a career and the shallow trappings of pride that it entails. The second entry wasn’t directed by Soderbergh, and wound up being a road-trip bro movie as much as any type of economic commentary.
Magic Mike’s Last Dance is even more removed from the other films, tossing away all of the characters aside from Magic Mike himself (apart from brief Zoom cameos) to become the most romance-focused of the three. It’s a bizarre sort of film, and one that doesn’t really work that well. We see Mike Lane working as a bartender in Miami, all of his past endeavors having seemingly failed, when Salma Hayek hires him for one amazing dance. It truly is an amazing dance, and a continuing strength of this franchise are its well-choreographed dance scenes. Soderbergh captures the energy and enthusiasm of dancing. Unfortunately, in this film there’s awkward narration about dancing and its history, and the attempt at profound commentary on male stripping falls flat on its face.
In any case, Hayek is so enthralled and so massively wealth that she pays for Mike Lane to come across the pond to London where the rest of the film takes place. She hires him to direct a new, sexy dance version of a stuffy old British play that’s currently occupying Hayek’s ex-husband’s theater. What follows is a mish-mash of underwritten themes and story beats. The film juggles feminism, more mild economic commentary, dream fulfillment, and more, all while using the broad outlines of a very standard “putting on a show” story.
While Channing Tatum continues to charm in this role, Last Dance fails to satisfy. For one, there are hardly any of the franchise’s iconic dance scenes. We get a bunch of them back to back in the final act when the show Mike and his sugar-momma have been working on is put on, in a frankly nonsensical move where the play’s storyline is completely dropped. Silliness aside, the film’s final dance sequence is fantastic, but it comes far too late.
Hayek is fine in her role, but her character feels under-baked, as do many in the film. There’s a butler and daughter character, neither adequately explored. Storylines are picked up and dropped. The film recruits a ton of dancer characters who are given absolutely no personality whatsoever. Gone is the piercing examination of the stripping industry and replacing it is near total glorification of it.
Magic Mike’s Last Dance concludes the trilogy on a lame note. Instead of gyrating to a climatic conclusion, it limply flounders on the floor.