Magic Mike’s Last Dance movie review (2023)
This film is a pretext for Tatum, Soderbergh, and screenwriter Reid Carolin (who wrote the previous two “Magic Mike” movies) to play around with a great character one more time without repeating themselves. After having previously given us, basically, “Saturday Night Fever With a Stripper, Combined with a Mentor-Whose-Pupil-Goes-Bad Film” (aka “Magic Mike”) and “Female Empowerment Fantasy and Male Bonding Comedy Disguised as a Comedic Road Movie with References To Apocalypse Now and The Odyssey” (aka “Magic Mike XXL”) they’ve made something else entirely: a film about desire, monogamous love, creativity, and freedom, but lightly so, never in a way that makes you roll your eyes. (Well, maybe a couple of times—mainly when characters repeat slogans about economic inequality simplistic enough to fit on a bumper sticker.)
At the same time, this is one of Soderbergh’s more playfully referential entertainments. It’s not as deliberately abrasive and absurd as Soderbergh’s quasi-experimental comedy “Schizopolis” or as voluptuously show-offy as “Oceans 12” (the one in the franchise where Julia Roberts plays both her regular character and “Julia Roberts”). But it’s a movie about moviemaking, the artistic process, and all the various types of cinema and fiction it’s drawing on, as much as it’s about Mike and Max and the dance production. And it’s about the idea, exemplified by so many of Soderbergh’s projects, that a stylish diversion can still have substance. (“This show is not about getting dick,” Max tells their artistic team, then pauses for a nanosecond and adds, “Only.”)
None of it would work if Tatum weren’t every inch the movie star, and probably the last American-born A-list movie actor who can really, truly dance and gets occasional opportunities to prove it. He dances with his leading lady a couple of times here, but most of their tangos are emotional and intellectual, and the movie respects her ferocious energy and focus enough to let her take the spotlight often.
Nobody’s going to write thesis papers about the intricate architecture of this movie’s storytelling. It just goes where it needs to go or feels like going, much like the other two films, though in a different way. It all leads to the big show (another kind of movie-format cliche), and when the curtain finally goes up—revealing a cabaret-ish production that’s essentially the same one Tatum co-created that’s currently a smash in London, complete with audience participation—the movie cleverly finds ways to connect what’s happening onstage to what’s happening within Mike and Max.