Starring:Channing Tatum, Selma Hayek
Magic Mike’s Last Dance is a strange beast. As the third entry of an established franchise, you’d think it would rest on it’s laurels, satisfying long-time fans. It doesn’t. Perhaps it aims to spice up the formula in an attempt to challenge its base. It does that, sorta, but not really.
Steven Soderbergh, ever the consummate professional, has carved out a career defined by subversion. Nothing changes here. Like its director, MAGIC MIKE’S LAST DANCE isn’t interested in meeting expectation. Sure, Channing Tatum is present and, sure, bulky, sweaty men flail around on screen, but LAST DANCE feels like the “last-in-line” of a filmography more interested in commentary than legacy.
So what do I mean by this? For one, the sun-drenched splendor of south Florida gives way to the drab, cosmopolitan hustle of London. The supporting cast that has populated the previous films are absent, save an arbitrary cameo via face-time call. Channing Tatum, our stalwart, stone-faced thespian, has two mainline dance sequences in total. Two.
We are introduced to a new cast of doe-eyed performers, each dawning rippling pectorals, but no personality stands out. They weren’t meant for that. In truth, LAST DANCE is only interested in the love story brewing between Tatum’s Mike and Selma Hayek’s Maxandra, a rich heiress with lots of money and a struggling stage show.
With MAGIC MIKE’S creature comforts expunged from the film at hand, what is there to recommend? For one, Tatum and Selma Hayek’s love story, though brief, feels believable. They are a couple operating on different sides of the spectrum. Maxandra is a head-strong, struggling mother who’s fostering a defiant streak against a megalomaniac partner-figure.
The 54-year-old Hayek is totally believable in the role. She’s pugnacious, standing her ground, even in the face of a separation that threatens to unroot her way of life. Channing Tatum, a former dancer, himself, conjures up his “art imitating life, imitating art,” figure that has defined the character of Mike Lane since the original film. That is to say, serviceable to the degree that we accept him as our guide through the recesses of his seedy professional endeavors.
Recommending MAGIC MIKE’S LAST DANCE feels like recommending an exhibit at a trendy art exhibition. Sure, it will certainly disappoint anyone expecting the artists original hits, in this case, the original MAGIC MIKE’s exuberance.
If you squint, you can kinda/sorta see where the artist was in this particular phase in their life. Perhaps the money wasn’t there. Perhaps they grew bored with their material, maybe even ashamed. Those interested in the films of Steven Soderbergh will find some textual interest in this, the last of a series that was ultimately never meant for longevity.
Watching MAGIC MIKE’S LAST DANCE proved pleasurable for me. I accepted it not just on it’s own terms, but as a text that represents the central artist. A man who’s varied filmography speaks to his relentless search for some greater truth, across mediums. A man who retired from the craft, then return to make seven more films.
To make the most sense of MAGIC MIKE’S LAST DANCE, one must look back at Soderbergh OCEAN’S trilogy. OCEAN’S 11 is the classic ensemble film. A call back to the celebrity-led heist caper marked by memorable personalities and, ideally, an enticing mcMuffin.
OCEAN’S 12 is the freak-out. The semi-intellectual, European caper experiment that shoots for the stars, audience response be damed. Which leads to OCEAN’S 13, the LAST DANCE of the caper trilogy. At first, both feel like retractions, but in reality they are about something outside the purview of their story line.
OCEAN’S 13 speaks to the strange confluence of mogul power operating within the inner recesses of Las Vegas, how they can be brought to light. LAST DANCE is a commentary about how there is no distinction between high and low art. What’s more compelling than that?