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One can only assume that Magic Mike’s Last Dance is, in fact, his last dance — and boy do we hope.

In an ideal world, every franchise with two instalments would love to finish off strong; but the reality of it is, not every film is Before Midnight. Heck, for every Revenge of the Sith, there is a Spider-Man 3 or The Godfather Part III. Add to the fact that Steven Soderbergh, who directed Magic Mike but took Magic Mike XXL off, returns to the fray to finish what he started. And while J.J. Abrams had different circumstances in the recent Star Wars sequel trilogy, the results of The Rise of Skywalker and Magic Mike’s Last Dance are largely similar. Both are sequels that have dipping into the well one too many times and despite how many attractive people you fill your cast out with, eye candy is not enough to distract you from just how unrecognizable these final instalments would be if not for the franchises in the title.

Picking up presumably around present day — we’re given hints via Soderbergh’s knack for referencing the COVID-19 pandemic in his recent films and by Kim (Caitlin Gerard), who you may remember from the first instalment in the franchise, who states that it’s been 10 years since they met — and Mike Lane (Tatum) is serving as a bartender at a affluent party. His business has crash and burned, but he’s surviving as always.

During the breakdown of the event, the host of the party, Max Mendoza (Salma Hayek), pays Mike a hefty amount for what would soon be a once-in-a-lifetime dance. Because of this magic — she compares his movement to that of the ocean — she decides to haul Mike over to London for a month where she puts him in charge of directing a stage play. It’s a weird way of getting back at her soon-to-be ex-husband — and she enlists Mike to help make this a sexy night for all of those in attendance to remember.

It almost goes without saying that Magic Mike’s Last Dance is a different type of adventure for our titular character — there’s no youngster being taken under his wing or roadtrip to be taken — and that’s the biggest flaw. Sure, there are plenty of sexy dance numbers that are sure to wake even the most lethargic audience members, but Magic Mike’s Last Dance is missing the flare that the previous two films had because he’s now directing a stage play.

Reid Carolin, who’s familiar with Tatum through the other two Magic Mike films and last year’s Dog, returns to close the trilogy that he and Tatum have been constants in. It’s understandable to want to take Mike out of Florida, but directing a stage play is perhaps too much of a change of scenery. It really feels like the film is attempting to fit a square peg into a round hole with Mike’s story here, and if not for the title, would you really think that this is the third installment of the Magic Mike series? I’d wager that the filmmakers noticed this and decided to film a scene over Zoom to cram in as many of the original bunch like Tarzan (Kevin Nash).

Carolin’s script’s pacing is simply all over the place. Even the stage play plot feels rushed. Placing Tatum and Hayek in the forefront is not the wrong call, but there’s rarely any real focus on the production that they’re putting on. At one point, Mike says something along the lines of, “You cannot say that what we’ve created isn’t fucking beautiful,” and if Max has seen as much as the viewer, I think she could actually say that considering we hardly see any of it. Too much time is spent on the relationship between Mike and Max and not nearly enough on the whole reason they travel to London.

If Hollywood has taught us anything, it’s that bigger is not always better. Part of the charm of the first Magic Mike film was its relatively small budget of $7 million. Everything from the locations to the orange hue that graced the screen made the film feel like a commercialized Sean Baker film. Magic Mike XXL doubled in budget and took the characters on the road, but it still retained some of that indie feel from the first instalment despite a different director stepping in.

But Magic Mike’s Last Dance was backed by an XXL budget of $45-49 million, and you’ll be wondering to yourself, Where is that money on-screen? The film does go to London, sure, but so much of the film takes place in the theatre or Max’s apartment. Perhaps Hayek and/or Tatum’s salaries took a chunk out of it. Either way, only God knows where that money went.

Perhaps some of that budget could’ve been used on post-production touch-ups on the lighting. The aforementioned orange hue no longer dominates the screen like it did in Magic Mike. However, the gloomy blue that fits in the outdoor London scenes only goes so far, and almost any scene indoors is met with horrible lighting. It’s entirely possible that it was a projection problem, and I apologize if so, but as of my current understanding, the film is so dim that you can hardly make out faces when a scene doesn’t take place in broad daylight.

To answer your burning question — yes, Tatum and Hayek are indeed hot in the film. There’s no denying that putting two of the most gorgeous people in Hollywood gets you somewhere, but there’s very little substance to the latter’s character. Max is seemingly supposed to represent the idea of a strong, independent woman. While that cannot be denied, the way that the film portrays her, for all of its good intentions, feels like a male attempting to utilize the female gaze. It’s not completely misunderstood so much as it’s just clear from watching the film that film was made by men. It worked for the first two entries in this series, don’t get it twisted, but when you insert a female component, perhaps actually letting some contribute would have gone a long way.

One can only assume that Magic Mike’s Last Dance is, in fact, his last dance — and boy do we hope. What began as an endearing tale loosely based on Tatum’s own experiences has become a shell of itself, (no wonder Warner Bros. pushed for this to go straight to HBO Max). But in the world of franchises never saying never to reopening the doors once they’ve been locked shut, here’s hoping that this franchise can finally be put to bed. It’s not that I’m mad about a third entry in this franchise, I’m just disappointed.


Image credits: Warner Brothers


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