I had never seen a “Magic Mike” movie before “Magic Mike’s Last Dance.” The franchise’s first two installments both missed out on the domestic box office crown in their respective opening weekends in 2012 and 2015, thus not warranting reviews from me. Ironically, “Last Dance” made less money in its opening weekend then either of its predecessors, but those opened in the more blockbuster-y summer season instead of the void that is Super Bowl weekend. If the first two entries in this series are anything like the third, then not only am I glad I missed them, but I have to wonder why this property was even allowed to have three movies.
The film opens with former exotic dancer Mike Lane (Channing Tatum) bartending in Florida, his relationships and business ventures all having fizzled out since the second movie. Lonely philanthropist Maxandra “Max” Mendoza (Salma Hayek Pinault) hears that Mike can provide certain services, and he agrees to give her a lapdance that turns into much more. Taken by his talent and charm, Max invites Mike to London to become the director of a one-night-only strip show at a theater she owns. Again, he reluctantly agrees, though the relationship has to be strictly professional from that point forward.
The rest of the movie is mostly what you’d expect from the “Let’s Put on a Show” genre. Mike balks at the new setting at first, but he quickly adapts. He doesn’t get along with Max’s daughter (Jemalia George) or butler (Ayub Khan Din) at first, but of course they come to like him. There’s a montage of auditioning dancers and some antics with a stuffy city official (Vicki Pepperdine). It looks like the show will be shut down, but they pull out all the stops and put it on anyway because they just love performing so much. The Mike/Max relationship deepens, by which I mean there is one, apparently.
Proponents of this film say that the best thing about it is the chemistry between the two leads. I was not picking up on any such movie-saving chemistry. Even with a grand gesture toward the end of the film, I was having a hard time buying that either Mike or Max has commitment to the other in their future. Maybe this belief in their chemistry comes from the lap dance sequence early in the film. They do nail that scene, though it seems to involve a lot of physical exertion from Max. I thought lap dances were supposed to be relaxing for the recipient?
The film is surprisingly restrained on the sexuality front. I’d say that for about 80% of the dances in this movie, the dancers wear pants – that’s full-legged pants. Mike and a female partner share a dance sequence toward the end of the movie for a supposedly-ravenous, mostly-female audience, and she’s way more scantily-clad than he is. The movie’s advertising didn’t exactly promise heaps of male nudity, but it was certainly implied. I’d bet that this movie could clean up its language, make no cuts visually, and get a PG-13 rating. Were the other “Magic Mike” movies this tame?
“Magic Mike’s Last Dance” isn’t particularly funny, romantic, or interesting, nor does it work as a visual spectacle outside of some acrobatic feats that viewers of any sexuality will likely find more impressive than tantalizing. I know it wants to be a date movie for Valentine’s Day, but it has to contend with yet another rerelease of “Titanic.” That movie may as well be Kate Winslet floating on a suspiciously-roomy door, because this movie is dead in the water.
“Magic Mike’s Last Dance” is rated R for sexual material and language. Its running time is 112 minutes.
Robert R. Garver is a graduate of the Cinema Studies program at New York University. His weekly movie reviews have been published since 2006.