Magic Mike’s Last Dance review – third chunk of male stripper yarn is anti-climactic

Channing Tatum’s buff character “Magic” Mike Lane, stripper and hunky sex-positive recipient of the thirsty female gaze, is back again for this goofy, but hastily packaged and oddly anti-climactic threequel from director Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Reid Carolin.

As the US emerges from the Covid pandemic, Mike has fallen on hard times. He is approaching his 40th birthday (but looking well on it), a business he set up has failed and now he’s working as a barman. Yet, while good-humouredly serving drinks at a fancy charity gala in Miami, there is a connection between him and socialite-hostess Max Mendoza (Salma Hayek). Simmeringly sexy Max hears from one of her guests – this is Kim, played by Caitlin Gerard, a veteran of the first Magic Mike movie from 2012 – that Mike used to be a red-hot dancer and so Max asks him for a private show. Mike obliges in a sizzler of a quasi-sex-scene, and infatuated Max brings Mike over to London with her to direct and choreograph an oiled-up male dance show in the grand theatre she has gained from her soon-to-be-ex-husband in the divorce proceedings.

There’s a fair bit of fun and some nice dance scenes along the way; Ayub Khan-Din is funny as Max’s droll valet Victor and Vicki Pepperdine does well as the repressed Brit bureaucrat who is persuaded to reverse her objections to the show with a private group dance on the top deck of a bus. But the film is streaked with a weird kind of eccentricity and contains the most bewildering “Intermission” joke I have ever seen – a cod interval, placed almost randomly, with the word “Intermission” over a cutesy picture of puppies, with zero comic impact.

Moreover, the whole film has a cobbled-together feel, almost as if Soderbergh only directed some key scenes and left the rest to someone else: the initial Mike-Max private dance, the pair of them gazing at each other in closeup over a dinner, kissing in the back of a cab afterwards. The other components, even the big choreographed sequences, feel a bit generic. And towards the end, the spotlight swings disconcertingly away from Hayek and the all-important Mike-Max relationship towards two other, rather pointless female characters: Hannah (Juliette Motamed), who is the star of the stage show, and a “female ballet dancer” with whom Mike actually dances in front of the audience.

So why couldn’t Tatum have had a climactic onstage dance scene with Hayek, who is, after all, a very good mover? It’s baffling, and the dramatic tension and focus is dissipated with the extended final dance scene. But it’s nice to see Tatum back: a natural performer with marvellous physical grace and (underused) comic style.

• Magic Mike’s Last Dance is released on 9 February in Australia and 10 February in the US and UK.