Steven Soderbergh returns to helm the third, and presumably final, entry in the Magic Mike franchise: Magic Mike’s Last Dance (2023). It’s possible to argue that Soderbergh’s creative style was in the second film – despite direction by Gregory Jacobs – as he is the credited cinematographer and editor. This time around, he is back in the director’s chair, waiting for a cinematic lap dance from his star. While this film features a few impressive dance numbers that the franchise has been known for, its story feels a bit convoluted and distracted from what fans want out of these films.
Mike (Channing Tatum) is bartending in Miami at a charity event when he meets its host, Maxandra Mendoza (Salma Hayek), who is going through a tough divorce. She inquires about hiring him for his other set of skills – and, after a series of awkward and apologetic exchanges – he gives her the solo performance of a lifetime. This encounter sparks inspiration in Maxandra, who convinces Mike to return with her to London where she plans to offer him a job that he has never expressed any interest in doing, nor does he seem to be invested in.
The flaws of the storytelling in this film are glaring when just a few changes could have made it stronger and better. For one, the film is narrated by Maxandra’s daughter for reasons that’ll become apparent by the end…but it always feels out of place. The worst element has to be the generic romantic foil of Roger Rattigan (Alan Cox), who is the soon-to-be ex-husband of Maxandra. Soderbergh initially introduces his controlling mother via a phone call, and again later through a threat to her that ultimately never pays off. There are a few story beats like this where time is given to them, but they are either forgotten or left on the cutting room floor. It is things like this that make it seem like the story got away from them.
Fortunately, Hayek and Tatum are both charismatic on-screen – even when they are saying things that don’t feel like it fits or pays off. While Mike is “directing” the other dancers, it is kind of clear through the character’s arc that he doesn’t have a plan. He is revising Isabelle Ascending, an apparently fictional play that was running for a long time at Maxandra’s theater, to make it more about female empowerment. The play reflects the story of the movie, and calls to Singin’ in the Rain – and it’s a shame that Soderbergh didn’t lean into that completely. This could have been his musical with dance instead of singing, but instead, we get a lackluster final film with at least one killer dance number…that is performed in the rain.
If this truly is Magic Mike’s Last Dance, it’s a shame that it didn’t land as well as the previous films. The movies are a lot of fun, and this one forgets that for most of it. There are a few enjoyable moments, and Maxandra’s butler, Victor (Ayub Khan-Din), is a fun new edition. Still, the movie dragged and managed to limp to a decent finish before completely overstaying its welcome. Magic Mike’s Last Dance earns the Not a Total Waste of Time rating.