Magic Mike 3 Review: Channing Tatum and Salma Hayek Sizzle

Channing Tatum and Salma Hayek have all the chemistry in a satisfying conclusion that celebrates the art of dance. Knee pads have never looked so good.

The Magic Mike movies may be best known for serving up the physical thrills of handsome male strippers in a blockbuster comedy package, but Mike Lane is so much more than just a stripper. Created by Channing Tatum and inspired by his early experiences in Tampa, Florida, the character has always been more than the sum of his (very impressive) parts. Steven Soderbergh returns to directing and Tatum returns to his dance roots in the third and final film in the hugely successful Magic Mike’s Last Dance franchise. When Tatum slides across a water-filled dance floor wearing only knee pads in the film’s pas-de-deux climax, it’s clear we’re not in Tampa anymore.

In fact we are in London. The film begins with a British-accented voiceover about “the impulse to dance” and its “power over our species” as Mike (Tatum) surveys his vast expanse of sea. “Like many 40-year-old millennial white men,” she explains, Mike has been hit hard by the pandemic and a looming recession. He’s back to organizing swanky events for wealthy women he once stripped down to, where he impresses hostess Max (Salma Hayek Pinault), an impulsive woman determined to spend all of her husband’s money.

At the tip of a friend who recognized him, Max asks Mike to dance for her. After a little persuasion (and a lot of money), he checks the stability of the cake stand in Max’s immaculately designed beach house. Soderbergh and writer Reid Carolin waste no time delivering the goods; You know your audience. The chemistry sizzles in the most epic private dance ever, which begins sensually and builds into an acrobatic frenzy that’s both hilarious and sexy. The etagere really comes in handy when Mike pulls himself down on a waiting Max, pull-up style, before sweeping her off her feet and pinning her against the glass doors for her panoramic views. No one is looking at the ocean this time.


“Magic Mike’s Last Dance”

© Warner Bros./Courtesy of the Everett Collection

Inspired by this life-changing experience (she’ll later exclaim, “That one damn dance changed everything about me”), Max is convinced that Mike is an artistic genius who was sent to her for a reason. She makes him an offer he can’t refuse: come to London for three months to put on a show at the historic theater owned by her ex-husband’s family. The plan is a little unclear to Mike and the audience, but Max wants to completely revamp the long-running period play “Isabel Ascendant,” which has regressive gender politics. The play’s main character has to choose between love and money, a raw thing that Max feels acutely. She believes the new show will awaken women’s repressed desires and show them that they can have it all.

Carolin’s script evades this ridiculous excuse for a feminist aesthetic in which rich women are empowered by keeping their husbands’ money. Against this backdrop, the film’s obsession with men “getting permission” before touching a woman sounds even more hollow, like a playground lesson in consent. The Magic Mike movies have always emphasized approval, and while that may be a lesson many men need to hear in the most childish of terms, its dumb execution feels patronizing to all. There’s a smug buzz of a box being ticked when a dance is introduced: “The sexiest act of submission is asking permission.”

But no one looks at Magic Mike for the script, though the gang’s comedic energy is sorely lacking from the early films (they perform once via a flawed video call). The Max story feels predictable and off-kilter, but it’s fun to see someone of Hayek’s experience still pull off a sexy romantic lead (a rarity in Hollywood). The plot doesn’t need to do much and hangs together long enough to make for a truly spectacular dance show. The motley crew of popular B-list actors are missing, but in their place we get real real dancers. It may be Mike’s last dance, but it’s the franchise’s first real choreography, featuring a hilarious flash mob and a truly gorgeous finale that looks like something out of Fuerza Bruta.

Cheeky nature film voiceovers aside, Magic Mike’s Last Dance is an ode to the art of dance. Tatum, who served as producer on all three films, clearly wanted to flex his dance muscles, but he also seems genuinely in love with the art form. The film’s casting montage may feel stilted and long, but it’s easy to imagine Tatum’s real thrill as he gathers the best dancers from around the world. When they stop talking and start dancing, that’s when the real magic happens.

Grade B

Magic Mike’s Last Dance hits theaters on February 10th.

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Lindsay Lowe

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