The Pitch: Our old pal Magic Mike Lane (Channing Tatum), to quote the poets of old, is “just a bachelor / Looking for a partner / Someone who knows how to ride / Without even falling off.” He’s not looking that hard at the moment, though, as he’s currently down on his luck, scraping together gigs in Miami following the pandemic-induced end of his custom furniture business.
Enter Maxandra (Salma Hayek Pinault), a very wealthy soon-to-be divorcee who meets Mike at a charity fundraiser she’s hosting and he’s bartending at. After hearing from another attendee that the guy behind the bar has a certain set of skills, Maxandra asks Mike for a private show, and the sparks fly — leaving her so transformed that she decides to whisk Mike away to London, where she puts him to work directing a new show in her soon-to-be ex-husband’s family’s theater. It’s a stodgy historic venue. Is it ready for Mike’s magic?
“It’s Not Bro Time, It’s Showtime”: After staying out of the director’s chair for the second Magic Mike film, Magic Mike XXL, Steven Soderbergh slides back in for the third film in the series, which strips… um, that is, it streamlines its narrative down to the most simple of plot points. The reason for this is simple: It’s a Magic Mike movie, and we supposedly know what we’re really here for.
That being said, Last Dance proves to be a fascinating experience for at least one reason: lesser films might, and often do, succumb to some degree of fan service. (Especially in a movie which promises to be the final installment of a trilogy.) What Soderbergh and writer Reid Carolin instead do is take this very simple framework, and use it to explore the love story they want to tell — one that doesn’t dive deep into the mysteries of the human heart, but does deliver some sweetness along with the gyrating and thrusting.
“Who Are We?” “Male Entertainers!” As we of course all remember, Channing Tatum broke into entertainment as a dancer, a craft he did originally hone in Florida strip clubs before movies like Step Up and She’s the Man led to him becoming a legitimate box office draw. One thing that hasn’t changed in the last 20 years: The man still knows how to move. More importantly, he’s come a long way as an actor, especially when playing this particular character, finding the natural grace in Mike’s knocked-down-but-never-knocked-out approach to life.
Working with Hayek Pinault brings out the best in him, too, and maybe also her. Maxandra’s foibles and flaws make her a rich enough character to stand opposite Mike in what is essentially a two-hander with a lot of strapping young back-up dancers, and the always versatile actress isn’t afraid to lean into her more childish instincts, oftentimes quite effectively. (Some actors know how to sit in a chair better than anyone else. Hayek Pinault could give similar lessons on how to flop across a bed.)