‘Magic Mike’s Last Dance’ is limp, overlong and underwhelming

MAGIC MIKE’S LAST DANCE *1/2 (112 minutes) M
There have been enough jokes since the release of the first Magic Mike film in 2012 about the erotic appeal the physiques of Channing Tatum and his co-stars hold for a certain female demographic, so there is no cause to repeat any gags about freeze framing here.

Suffice to say that there are plenty more finely sculpted torsos gyrating in Magic Mike’s Last Dance – the third and hopefully the last of these films – so anyone after the hen’s night thrills delivered by the first two films will no doubt get their fill.

That said, one suspects that even the most dedicated fans of Tatum who have been anxiously awaiting the final episode of the Magic Mike stripper trilogy might find the overlong escapade more of a lethargic limp rather than the sexy romp they might have been hoping for.

When it comes to lambasting Hollywood for ushering in the eras of post-content cinema – where the principles of good storytelling are sacrificed for flash and dazzle – we usually focus on giant films. But it is also evident in smaller-scale films and Magic Mike’s Last Dance is a prime example.

Anyone who cares about narrative might well find the film depressing as well as dull.

Now working as a bartender in Miami, former stripper and failed businessman Mike Lane (Tatum) draws the attention of wealthy businessperson Maxandra Mendoza (Salma Hayek).

She pays him thousands to perform a private dance and is so taken with his dance moves and sexual technique she persuades him to leave Florida and accompany her to London. Why Mike prefers to scrounge for jobs serving drinks rather than making piles of easy money providing this service as a business is never explained.

To get back at her unfaithful husband Max tasks Mike to direct a one-night-only male strip show at the prestige theatre she owns. The casting, design and preparation for the event means shutting down a sell-out stage show for a month. Why is never explained, beyond Max wailing how she wants to be herself and that this is a way to cope with her expensive divorce.

The film is pitted with similar story points that make no sense, yet even if you give the film a pass for its weak narrative there’s little left to get excited about.

There is one terrific dance sequence that takes place on the upper deck of a London bus but apart from that the dance numbers in Magic Mike’s Last Dance lack ingenuity or any real erotic charge.

Tatum’s simulated sex serenade of Hayek sets the tone for the groin grinding to follow, leading to a girl’s night finale that proves insufficient to justify this underwhelming and unnecessary outing.

There would be some redemption were the editing and camerawork not so aggressively second-rate.

It should be mandatory for any director making a film with a dance sequence in it to study Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz and at least try and match the skill and vision of the dance numbers in this brilliant 1979 film.

That such a lacklustre effort as MM3 was directed by Steven Soderbergh, who did the first one, suggests the prolific, usually inventive filmmaker was having an off period.

Yet perhaps the most annoying thing about the film is all the pretentious, contradictory twaddle about “female empowerment”, a term now so overused it has been drained of any real meaning.

It certainly is here, where female empowerment equates to getting excited over male strippers jutting their junk into the faces of middle aged women.

And if Max, as played by Salma Hayek, is supposed to be an example of a strong female lead, Heaven help us all.

To wit: the resolution of Max’s legal tussle with her husband, declared in the film’s final scenes, suggests the very opposite of empowerment. Her alleged experience in business literally amounts to less than zero. Salma Hayek, now 56, is certainly sexy as Max, but the character has the business brain of a canary.

And why invite Max’s daughter Zadie (Jemelia George) to the finale’s big adults-only show then get all prudish by covering her eyes at the steamy bits and sending her into the foyer during the dance with all the simulated sex moves? Isn’t this form of entertainment meant to be liberating? If she’s too young to watch it, what the heck is she doing there? Is Max a bad mother as well as a bad businesswoman?

And if you’re going to film a squad of fast-moving dancers in low light, please shoot it on film, not on video. Red cameras have come long way but they are yet to match the capture quality of film stock.

Oh, and given how thin the story is, why is this silly thing nearly two hours long? Is there a snappy 90-minute version we should know about?

The best advice with Magic Mike’s Last Dance is to save your dollars and wait for it to pop up in the stream – where fans will be free to freeze frame to their heart’s content.