This weekend a singular cinematic trilogy reaches its climax as Magic Mike’s Last Dance writhes its way into cinemas.

For the closing chapter of Mike Lord’s odyssey, the exotic dancer and furniture maker has gone Transatlantic. His very particular set of skills (skills he has acquired over a very long career, skills that make him a dream for people who like Ginuwine) attracts the attention of a glamorous, philanthropic, backer with a buttload of money, a West End theatre and a powerful desire to piss off her estranged and stuffy hubby.

Mike (Channing Tatum) and Maxandra (Salma Hayek Pinault) are thrown together by faate and the indiscretion of a former bump and grind-recipient at a time when both are adrift in their own lives and disappointments. Max’s indecent proposal for a single dance swiftly evolves into a month-long opportunity for Mike to make his mark on London town as the scorned wife melodramatically exerts her independence.

The dance itself is one of two showcase moments for the pairing of Tatum’s arresting, acrobatic, talent and director Steven Soderbergh’s visual dexterity. Hayek Pinault gamely throws herself into the gravity-defying choreography (did Mike check whether Max was unusually limber off-camera or was he just lucky she wasn’t breakable?!) however the spotlight is firmly on Magic Mike. Tatum plays the potentially daft scene with admirable gravitas and nearly sells it.

He is less suited to the fish out of water ‘umble stripper schtick he is forced to shoulder during a whirlwind trip from Miami to England. A Liberty makeover and the chilly embrace of high tea have little effect on poor Mike’s bemused mug as he faces Max’s teenage daughter Zadie (Jemelia George), right-hand man Vincent (Ayub Khan-Din) and comprehensive plans for his future. Maxandra Mendoza is a force of nature, will Magical Michael survive her?

Magic Mike’s Last Dance – and indeed the last dance of the film – never quite live up to the carefully erotic trailer-bait pas de deux of its opening. Though further saucy bones are thrown it lacks the grim counterpoint of life backstage that made Soderbergh’s first outing with Magic Mike surprisingly effective leaving it unclear why he returned to the franchise. Aside from a flimsy scouting/auditions montage, the individual dancers get no characterisation and a Ghosts of Co-workers Past Zoom is the closest we come to seeing Mike bond with any other performers.

The effect of this is to restrict Mike to pacing the pen of his new life with Max and, unfortunately, there is no spark between the pair to engage us. In fact, Khan-Din’s Vincent is the movie’s MVP, occupying his own little world, a place far beyond the confines of this movie, and occasionally allowing Mike and Zadie to join him there. Channelling The Princess Diaries’ Joe, with every bit as much charisma as Héctor Elizondo himself, Victor’s dry asides bring a welcome respite from the squirming discomfort of sitting through Mike and Max’s gaping chemistry vacuum.

Channing Tatum has proved himself to be a versatile and sensitive actor since Magic Mike’s first outing and his recent success with The Lost City reaffirmed his powers as an endearingly fluffy romantic lead. And Salma Hayek Pinault is so charismatic she can burn up the big screen as a cartoon cat! But here all passion is lost. The film has the same sense of a sleek veneer carefully layered over naff material that pervaded Sam Taylor-Johnson’s valiant yet remarkably unsexy Fifty Shades of Grey adaptation (and similarly trite dialogue).

The Last Dance does deliver some fan service. Tatum uses a number of new body parts to carry out his trademark slidey stage manoeuvres and quells Max’s frustration and post-marriage grief in some picturesque places with his very best “I understand you” face. These interludes are interspersed with Zadie’s clumsily inserted narration. She is ostensibly writing a book so she alternates tidbits about the history of dance with her take on her eccentric mother’s fling. It’s all very odd.

One of the best sight gags in Airplane II is the spoof poster for Rocky XXXVIII. Magic Mike’s Last Dance would be more realistically billed as Step Up X and might stand a better chance of hitting those Rocky sequel numbers if it played to its strengths. Instead, we are given the hard sell on an unconvincing ‘love story’ which feels increasingly uncomfortable the longer it goes on. Once The Ick sets in it is almost impossible to shake off. Like a Last Dance stripper!

Hannah (Juliette Motamed, from C4’s fantastic We Are Lady Parts) is the unabashedly feisty lead of the play Max and Mike have gatecrashed and she alone determinedly forges ahead with Max’s flaccid girl power messaging. But as the dancers keep their Casual Friday clobber on to grind against bannisters and random women in set pieces more reminiscent of rush hour on the Central Line than women’s wildest fantasies one can’t help but wonder… If this is all about female empowerment why the desperation for a happily ever after; couldn’t our leads just use Mike’s kneepads to slide off into the sunset as f*ck buddies?!

Magic Mike’s Last Dance opens across the UK on 10th February

Magic Mike’s Last Dance
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Emily Breen
Emily Breen began writing for HeyUGuys in 2009. She favours pretzels over popcorn and rarely watches trailers as she is working hard to overcome a compulsion to ‘solve’ plots. Her trusty top five films are: Betty Blue, The Red Shoes, The Princess Bride, The Age of Innocence and The Philadelphia Story. She is troubled by people who think Tom Hanks was in The Philadelphia Story and by other human beings existing when she is at the cinema.
magic-mikes-last-dance-reviewMagic Mike’s Last Dance has much of the gyratory spectacle without any of the gravitas of the two preceeding chapters. A dull, damp, passionless epilogue.