‘Magic Mike’s Last Dance’ review: Three cheers for himbo cinema

There’s more to the Magic Mike movies than ultra-hunky men humping and flexing unabashedly. Director Steven Soderbergh, screenwriter Reid Carolin, and leading man Channing Tatum have tapped into straight female desire by not only dishing out erotic visuals but bolstering them with a himbo boasting a heart of gold. Magic Mike is a modern fantasy, embracing Golden Retriever energy over Toxic Masculinity. And in his latest outing, Magic Mike’s Last Dance, he thrusts the thrill of erotic dramas into the sweet center of a traditional rom-com. It’s not groundbreaking, but it is exciting.  

What’s Magic Mike’s Last Dance about? 

A man, woman, and girl sit at a table in a night club.

Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Male stripper turned furniture designer Mike Lane (Tatum) thought he left his g-string days behind him. But the pandemic tanked his blooming business, so he’s taking bartending gigs at swanky charity soirées. That’s where he crosses paths with downtrodden (but devastatingly glamorous) divorcée Maxandra Mendoza (Salma Hayek Pinault), who is desperate to get her groove back. After a memorable solo performance, Max offers Mike an unbelievable deal: accompany her to London for one month, do as she asks, get $60,000. 


Channing Tatum puts on a show in steamy, emotional ‘Magic Mike’s Last Dance’ trailer

While sex work is the center of this titillating trilogy, what Max has in mind isn’t bedroom business. Instead, she wants to reboot the stodgy period piece playing at The Rattigan, a theater she’s acquired in her divorce. Forget the tired tale of a woman forced to choose between love and money, let’s dump the posh accents and modest costumes and bring in a bunch of hot men ready to bump and grind for an audience of mature women thirsting for an outlet.

Remember that Andie MacDowell sequence in Magic Mike XXL? Magic Mike’s Last Dance is essentially that sequence blown large. Of course, while making the play, Mike and Max grow close…but what will that mean for her divorce settlement, her dubious teen daughter, and her standing in London society? 

Channing Tatum and Salma Hayek Pinault are hot as hell in Magic Mike’s Last Dance. 

Men dance on stage.

Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

In Magic Mikes past, the eponymous dancer’s love interests were pretty but pretty forgettable, with their chief character trait seeming to be resisting Mike’s charms. From the start, Max is a more fully formed (and fully figured) romantic heroine, shouldering heartbreak, untapped lust, and a driving desire to reclaim her identity now she’s shaking off the shackles of her millionaire husband. (The setup feels very J.Lo rom-com, and I’m not mad at it.) Hayek Pinault brings a sultry maturity to the role, while embracing Max’s moods and vulnerabilities. One moment, she’s swaggering as if ready for the runway. The next, she’s hollering in pajamas, cozied up in a protective blanket fort, or fiercely defending her choices against sniggering detractors. 

For all her ferocity, Tatum offers broad shoulders to cry on and an open gaze of acceptance, no matter what she throws his way. The fantasy here is not just sexual, but sensitive. One of the many erotic dance numbers centers around Ro James’ song “Permission,” highlighting the sexiness of enthusiastic consent over the forceful (and problematic) bad boys of erotic cinema past(Opens in a new tab). But more than this, Magic Mike is not just the dream guy guaranteeing orgasms, but also the dream guy who’ll hang out with your kid, support your wildest career ambitions, and hoist you up against a wall for acrobatic foreplay.

Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike’s Last Dance is a gorgeous romantic comedy. 

Shirtless men dance on stage.

Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Hayek Pinault and Tatum’s chemistry is immersive, enveloping audiences in the seduction of two wildly hot lovers, who are mad for each other. The first-act dance — teased enticingly in the trailer — isn’t just sexy, it’s glorious. Soderbergh’s patient camera follows Mike around Max’s luxe living room with a patient grace, setting up our anticipation as the pro stripper clears away flowers and tests some poles for sturdiness. It’s a tease delivered with sly confidence.

The color palette is vivid, but not bright and cheery, as it might be in a conventional rom-com. There’s a cool blue overcast that makes the pink of Max’s brilliant jumpsuit richer, and the glow of the setting sun on Mike’s bared flesh radiant. Throughout the film, whatever color pop Max is favoring is mirrored in the background, bringing a vibrance to every frame, perhaps to reflect how she’s brought color back into Mike’s world. Notably, he’s wearing catering black-and-white in his re-introduction. These details make even smaller moments gorgeous, and the spectacle of their stage show smartly dazzling. 

How does Magic Mike’s Last Dance compare to Magic Mike XXL?

A man and woman in the rain.

Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Magic Mike XXL is maybe impossible to beat. Embracing the buddy comedy vibes of Magic Mike, the sequel relished in its collection of charming and hot goofballs. For all its various thrills, stunts, and seductions, there may be no way to top Big Dick Richie’s impromptu gas station showstopper(Opens in a new tab) to the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way.” It was a celebration of thirst, humor, and learning to love yourself. Himbo excellence in a nutshell.

While the crew from XXL make a brief cameo in the third film, Magic Mike’s Last Dance firmly shifts genres from buddy comedy to romantic comedy. And with it comes some sacrifices. Chief among them, the other dancers get spotlight moments, but little to no characterization. So, while their performances on the theater’s stage — which seems a smart ad for the Magic Mike Live tour(Opens in a new tab) — are spectacular, they lack the emotional undercurrent of XXL’s finale. 

Instead, Max and Mike’s story is peopled by characters who feel distinctly Richard Curtis, master of British rom-commery. There’s the snarky but sophisticated teen daughter (Jemelia George), whose musings about love, mothers, and dance make up a florid but tongue-in-cheek narration across the film. There’s a sassy butler (Ayub Khan Din), a git of an ex-husband (Alan Cox), and a repressed old maid (Vicki Pepperdine), who just needs a good thrill on a double-decker bus. (Props to Pepperdine for a mostly wordless yet comedically divine turn.) The scene-stealer here though is Juliette Motamed, from We Are Lady Parts fame. As an actress hungry for provocative theater roles, she brings an intoxicating enthusiasm to her delivery as an enthralled MC. She’s no Dallas, but she’s alright alright alright. 

Unfortunately, where Magic Mike’s Last Dance falters is in its finale, where feminist doublespeak is a tripping obstacle. Much of the film bluntly compares Max’s dilemma to the heroine of the play they’re putting on, asserting that feminism should mean she has more options than choosing the rich asshole or the “poor guy with a heart of gold.” But in the end, Max is reduced to exactly this decision, and Soderbergh and his team seem to shrug it off with an explosion of confetti and celebratory dancing. For a film that so smartly elevates safe rom-com tropes with unfettered sexual exuberance, this clichéd plotline — which asserts men are the solution to unhappiness with her life — is a bit of a lady-boner-killer. And just when we want a climax! 

This frustrating fumble aside, Magic Mike’s Last Dance is a triumphant, clever new chapter in the ongoing adventures of Soderbergh’s iconic himbo. Tatum is in fine form. Earnest heart collides with thrusting hips to make for a female-focused fantasy that is thoroughly fun and thrilling. Within the rom-com choreography, Soderbergh even works in some of his heist moves, making Max and her minions feel like they could spin into Ocean’s 9 without missing a beat. With a clutch of cool new characters, you might come for Mike, but be won over again and again. So, in the end, Magic Mike’s Last Dance is such a pleasure that I truly hope it’s not his last. 

Magic Mike’s Last Dance opens in theaters Feb. 10.

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