Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Magic Mike's Last Dance: A Review (Review #1696)



What could be more romantic than having a 42-year-old man dry hump a 56-year-old woman? Magic Mike's Last Dance is a sheer embarrassment for all concerned, where not even what semi-nudity we got was worth suffering through this dull, idiotic venture.

Mike Lane (Channing Tatum) has fallen on hard times, his furniture business failing as a result of the pandemic. Now bartending for fancy parties, he is spotted by Maxandra "Max" Mendoza Rattigan (Salma Hayek Pinault). One erotic lap dance later, Max whisks Mike to London to direct her new vision for Isabel Ascending, a Regency play at the family-owned Rattigan Theater that she feels needs updating.

Max and Mike come up with the idea to rebrand it as a female-empowerment play with male strippers living in her fantasy. While enduring the quips of Max's acerbic chauffer/valet Victor (Ayub Khan Din) and the woke sarcasm of her daughter Zadie (Jamalia George), our himbo and his girl boss struggle to create Isabel Descending as well as their attraction to each other.

I know I am not the target audience for the Magic Mike franchise and have never seen either Magic Mike or Magic Mike XXL. I was dragged kicking and screaming to Magic Mike's Last Dance (I was assigned the film for review), so I cannot offer a viewpoint of whether Magic Mike's Last Dance develops the character as much as his body. I can judge only by what was presented. What was presented was a ludicrous plot, simply terrible performances and an erotic-free film.

Right from the start, Magic Mike's Last Dance insults the viewers' intelligence. We are asked to believe that Maxandra would pay $6,000 for a lap dance from a total stranger. This is already idiotic, but Mike had asked for $60,000 for this erotic exercise. Once we get to the actual dance, the choreography is so extravagant that one almost expects Alvin Ailey or Twyla Tharp to take a bow. From that point, it all sinks into idiocy.

Sure, Mike has nothing else to do, so he'll gladly fly off to London. He'll agree to direct a one-night-only stage show that introduces SEX and strippers to a Jane Austen/Oscar Wilde mashup. 

There is no drama. There is no comedy. Worse, there are no performances.

With his beady eyes and perpetually confused expression, Channing Tatum can barely get his lines of dialogue out. I suppose I can acknowledge that he moves well, though I never found him erotic or physcially appealing. He says his lines with no conviction, and whether the scene is comic, dramatic or romantic, Tatum speaks them in exactly the same way.

Madame Pinault can act, but this is the worst performance Salma Hayek has ever given. She looks genuinely confused, forcing Reid Carolin's dialogue out of her mouth but somehow refusing to suggest these are thoughts or ideas a living person would utter. For some reason, I found Madame Pinault's accent to be the strongest and most indecipherable in Magic Mike's Last Dance. I genuinely did not know at one point whether she said that something would fulfill audiences' "wildest" or "wettest" dreams. I hope it was the latter, so that it could have a more outlandish conclusion. 

Jemila George's Zadie was an insufferable know-it-all, talking about "systemic economic inequality" and smugly telling Mike that she was "writing a novel". Why Carolin or director Stephen Soderbergh opted to have her serve as narrator is inexplicable. 

The only genuine performance was Ayub Khan Din as Victor. In his snarky manner and dismissive nature, Victor was able to stay above the fray. I kept fantasizing about a Victor-centered film, where this sensible man has to endure three idiots who do idiotic things.

It is curious that, from what I understand, Magic Mike wanted to humanize these hot bodies who serve as erotic vehicles for women, but Magic Mike's Last Dance ended up dehumanizing the "trained dancers". I do not think the various hunks got names, or at least names that were used. I think only one had anything close to a backstory: an especially skilled dancer who flew in from Italy. Apart from that, this collection of himbos had no purpose other than to take their shirts off and show their physiques. 

Perhaps this is in keeping with the faux-feminist themes Magic Mike's Last Dance was aiming for. Early on, Mike tells Max, "You say jump, I say 'Which bed?'". At another point, our Isabel/MC said that one of her fantasies was "a sexy CEO who pays his women more than his men". I do not know if strippers are one of the few industries where women are paid more than men (modeling is). The beauty standard, it appears, is not about equity.

Magic Mike's Last Dance has perhaps one good moment: a scene where the men do a choreographed dance on a bus to attempt and win over a fussy bureaucrat (which unsurprisingly succeeds). Even that though is couched in idiocy. Bad acting, a terrible story, surprisingly dull and tame dance routines.

Jerry Herman once wrote a spoof song about strippers called Take It All Off, where the joke is that the dancer was so unappealing that the audience started screaming "PUT IT BACK ON!". I got the same feeling when watching Magic Mike's Last Dance, the worst film I have seen this year. 


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