‘It’s not bro time, it’s showtime.’ With those immortal words 2015’s Magic Mike XXL nailed the basic appeal of this oiled-up abs-athon: it’s a piece of high-camp theatre transplanted to the big screen and built (in every sense) for amped-up Friday night crowds to have some cheesy, scream-along fun.
So it brings me no pleasure to report that the London-set third film in the trilogy is truly ‘The Bodfather Part III’ of male stripper movies: an oddly dour repudiation of the fun stuff that’s kept the show on the road up to this point. Instead of ‘showtime’, you get a lot of moody soul searching, status anxiety, a half-hearted love story and a plot that acts as an infomercial for the ‘Magic Mike Live’ stage show.
And it’s not bro time, either. Because bar one reunion over a sketchy Zoom call, Big Dick Richie, Ken, Tarzan and co are AWOL in this one. A dependable source of warmth and camaraderie, that chemistry is a big miss here. Instead, Magic Mike’s Last Dance is a solo effort in which Channing Tatum’s struggling ex-stripper, ‘Magic’ Mike Lane, is hired as a theatre impresario by Salma Hayek’s vengeful wannabe divorcée, Max. She wants to retool the outmoded sex comedy playing at her hubbie’s theatre into a feminist showcase of male dancing to take him down a peg or two. And, honestly, it makes as little sense on screen.
It’s truly ‘The Bodfather Part III’ of male stripper movies
Beyond an obligatory montage of London tourist attractions and the odd cultural collision between Mike and some suspicious English traditions (‘I don’t really fuck with vegetables,’ he grimaces at a cucumber sandwich), this isn’t the fish-out-of-water comedy you might expect. In fact, it speaks of an actor-producer wanting to take the character in ‘interesting’ new directions and a director in Steven Soderbergh who gets caught between servicing that urge and stripping it all down to its narrative undies and getting back to basics.
Because when it does put on a show, as it does at both ends of the film, Magic Mike’s Last Dance has an undeniable charge that, if not exactly erotic, is definitely electrifying. But after a fiery start, Reid Carolin’s screenplay lets the romantic tension between Tatum’s Mike and Hayek’s Max fizzle out. It all feels much more like a cash-in than a passion project, with dashed-out jokes that repeatedly fail to land and pacing that lacks any rhythm. You can see the sweat on stage, but it’s harder to detect in the filmmaking.
In cinemas worldwide Feb 10