Mike Lane takes to the stage once again when a business deal that went bust leaves him broke and bartending in Florida. Hoping for one last hurrah, Mike heads to London with a wealthy socialite who lures him with an offer he can’t refuse — and an agenda all her own. With everything on the line, he soon finds himself trying to whip a hot new roster of talented dancers into shape.

Editing: Mary Ann Bernard
Season Kent

Cast:  Channing Tatum, Salma Hayek Pinault, Ayub Khan Din, Juliette Motamed, Vicki Pepperdine

Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writer: Reid Carolin
Cinematography: Steven Soderbergh (as Peter Andrews)

The world was first introduced to Mike Lane in 2012’s Magic Mike, a film that took us inside the world of male strippers. Directed by Stephen Soderbergh, the film proved to be a financial and critical success, boosting star Channing Tatum’s career considerably and spawning a 2015 sequel, Magic Mike XXL, directed by frequent Soderberg producer Gregory Jacobs. Now 8 years later, Tatum is back playing Magic Mike one last time in this film initially intended to be released on HBO but is gracing cinemas with its performance.

Mike Lane (Channing Tatum) has left his stripping days behind him and is working as a bartender at parties and charity events in the wake of shutting down his furniture business due to the pandemic. After working at one of these charity events, he is requested to see the organizer, Maxandra Mendoza (Salma Hayek Pinault), who has heard about Mike’s dancing past and would like him to dance for her to take her mind off her recent marriage separation. The ensuing dance inspires Maxandra and she soon whisks Mike away to London to help her direct a stage play at a theatre she owns, incorporating his style of dancing.

In the opening moments of the film, Mike is recognised by a woman. She just so happens to be one of the girls he had danced for in her college sorority in the first film. She is now all grown up with a stable job and relationship. This proves to be a telling moment for the film as this is a much more grown-up and mature entry in this franchise. Closer in tone to the original film, the film is much more sensual and intimate than showy and reliant on beefcake sexiness. As one character says at one point “there’s nothing sexier than knowing you’re the only one.”

A key part of why this film feels so intimate and sensual is the relationship between Mike and Maxandra. The romance is not breaking any new ground but it is elevated by Channing Tatum and Salma Hayek Pinault who could charm their way into the most cold-hearted of us. Easily the most interesting relationship Mike has had in the series. While Tatum has been in comedic films recently, this reminded me how hilarious Hayek Pinault can be with several laugh-out-loud line deliveries. Also giving great performances are Jemelia George, who plays Mazandra’s teenage adopted daughter Zadie, and Ayub Khan Din, Maxandra’s long-serving butler Victor who proves to be a constant scene stealer.

One element that Dylan and I discussed enjoying in the two first films on our WDYWW Spoilercast is the camaraderie and relationships between Mike and his fellow Kings of Tampa. This film is unfortunately void of those kinds of friendships to the extent that none of the dancers part of the stage play Mike is directing have names, they are all credited as a group as “The Dancers.” This sees the middle of the film lag as the only people you care about are Mike, Maxandra, Zadie and Victor.

For a certain portion of the audience, whether this movie is a success or not is reliant on how good or hot the dances are. I’m no dance expert but I was pretty impressed by what was on show here. The opening and closing performances are incredible with one of the dances taking place on a raining stage being a highlight moment of the series. I particularly appreciated the workshopping of a dance number set to “Permission” by Ro James which show cased how much some subtle differences can make. It should be noted that this feels far more like a modern dance film than a stripping film, with all of the dancers coming from that background and most keeping their pants on. There are plenty of shirtless men to keep people happy, but it is another element encapsulating the evolved and maturing feel of this film.

If this truly is Magic Mike’s Last Dance, it is an enjoyable final chapter for Mike Lane. With a charismatic central couple and some impressive dance set pieces, this is sure to please fans of the series, even if it isn’t as young and immature as it once was.

Ashley Hobley attended an advance screening of Magic Mike’s Last Dance thanks to Warner Bros. Australia and Event Cinemas.