Pages Navigation Menu

"No matter where you go, there you are."


Magic Mike’s Last Dance is the Correct Title

Steven Soderbergh burst on to the independent movie scene with Sex, Lies and Videotape. That film was lauded for the way it showed women talking about female desire, which was considered fresh and exciting in those days. But that was 1989, and a lot has changed since then, including the ability for female filmmakers to tell their own sexually-charged stories. Soderbergh continued exploring this theme throughout his career, making The Girlfriend Experience (in 2009, starring Sasha Grey) and Channing Tatum’s semi-autobiographical stripper story Magic Mike (2012). Both films look at the financial commodification of bodies for sexual delight. One film didn’t make back its budget. The other, and its 2015 sequel Magic Mike XXL (although not directed by Soderbergh) made a combined $270million, proving that sex sells… if it’s well packaged. Channing Tatum was the X factor, a very watchable, accomplished actor and dancer. So why wouldn’t Soderbergh, who likes a trilogy, make another Magic Mike film, if Tatum is willing? There’s money to be made and bodies to be flaunted. But is there a story?

Magic Mike’s Last Dance is incredibly Soderberghian, but only tangentially a Magic Mike movie. Through dance, gratification, wealth and gorgeous lighting, Soderbergh creates another fantasy. It’s pacey and bold, but scratch beneath the surface and Last Dance has less depth than a jockstrap.

Now in his 40s, and down on his luck, Mike is bartending at a charity function in Miami, for the very wealthy Maxandra “Max” Mendoza (Salma Hayek Pinault). Max is mid-divorce from an English rat. One of her staff (coincidentally, the bride at the bachelorette party in the original Magic Mike) remembers Mike’s skills. Max is a woman in need of some pleasure and agrees to pay him $6,000 for a dance. And she gets a dance. In a nod to Pretty Woman, Max then whisks Mike away to London because that’s where her “life is”. That life is her adopted daughter Zadie (Jemelia George), who acts as the film’s narrator, and a personal butler-cum-driver, Victor (Ayub Khan Din). Mike becomes part of Max’s revenge plot against her theatre-owning ex, helping turn a popular Wildean play into something livelier by using his particular set of skills.

The rest of the story is ludicrous, and frankly, unimportant. MM3 brings in fastidious theatrical rule makers, street dancers, bus gyrating and multiple first-world perils of the wealthy and lonely. The film is supposed to be a love story that showcases female empowerment, but fails miserably at both. Tatum is a great lynchpin and audience avatar, completely baffled by the events unfolding around him. He’s also a good sport just continuing to grind away. Alas, Hayek Pinault, a fine actor when she wants to be, parrots a lot of Soderbergh speech which doesn’t fit hers or Max’s vibe – at one point Max shouts “I am supposed to be an empowered female” before running to a man to solve her problems. Worst of all, Soderbergh’s depiction of the London theatre scene is either ignorant or pure trolling.

BUT, by ignoring all of this and looking at the film as pure spectacle, it’s a silly, fun time. The dance numbers are stylish and Last Dance has a much better handle on how romantic comedy works than many other films (although the twist is the real love story is between Max and Victor).

Magic Mike’s Last Dance feels just like a strip show, beautiful to gaze at while bearing no resemblance to reality. Mike says “the ultimate submission is asking for permission,” but I don’t remember giving it for this, Steven. Do you?

Previous PostNext Post


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.