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The Hollywood Insider Magic Mike Last Dance Stripper Drama Channing Tatum

Photo: ‘Magic Mike’s Last Dance’ 

The opening voiceover that kicks off ‘Magic Mike’s Last Dance’ ponders the inherent social function and the ineffable form of radical self-expression and communal communication that is singularly cultivated by the artform of dance. The omnipotent narrator’s high-minded investigation of the ancient query “What is dance and why is it so powerful?” persists in these voiceover passages throughout the movie, alongside a steadily delivered stream of dry-witted plot management. While this anthropological analysis of the nature of dance may not be the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of the ‘Magic Mike’ franchise, every entry in this provocative trilogy has, above all else, endeavored to depict the human body (specifically the male form) as a living, breathing, work of art on screen. Despite the unavoidable predictability that comes with being the third movie in a trilogy, in its best moments, ‘Magic Mike’s Last Dance’ elevates the formula of its two predecessors and brings the ballad of Magic Mike Lane, the Florida stripper to a satisfying conclusion. 

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After ‘Magic Mike XXL,’ – an absolute riotous sequel to the near-flawless ‘Magic Mike’ –- reached cult status in the minds of the dedicated ‘Magic Mike’ fanbase in recent years, ‘Magic Mike’s Last Dance’ was primed to wrap up the titular tale of everyone’s favorite aspiring furniture entrepreneur, Mike Lane, and his journey to, as Matt Bomer’s Ken puts it, “self-actualization.” When we meet Mike in ‘Last Dance’ he’s back working as a bartender after the COVID-19 pandemic hit his small furniture business hard. He has all but sworn off the notion of dancing all together. That is until he meets Salma Hayek’s Maxandra, a recent divorcee of considerable wealth, who pays for one evening of Mike’s “services” at the recommendation of the same nameless character from the infamous bachelor party scene from the first ‘Magic Mike.’ The connection that Mike establishes with Maxandra that night, one purely expressed through sensual movement, sets the somewhat preposterous, but undeniably entertaining thrust of the movie’s plot in motion, putting Channing Tatum’s signature character on a circuitous but inevitable course, back to the main stage. 

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Channing Tatum’s Stripper Past: To Dance or Not to Dance

Classic movie musical purists may gawk at this comparison, but like Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, or Cyd Charisse before him, Channing Tatum’s unique and exceptional set of skills as a dancer are the centerpiece of this series, and are as vital to the authentic entertainment value of the ‘Magic Mike’ movies as any of the legendary physical performances found in the classic canon of Hollywood movie musicals. The now iconic pair of dance sequences set to Ginuwine’s “Pony” from ‘Magic Mike’ and ‘Magic Mike XXL’ both stand as triumphant blueprints for how to stage, shoot, and perform a show-stopping charisma bomb of a dance number. Tatum is legitimately the only modern leading man who is physically capable of pulling off the complex choreography that these scenes require without the aid of generous cross-editing or a stunt double. So the fact that the character of Mike Lane in ‘Magic Mike’s Last Dance’ doesn’t really feel like dancing for the vast majority of the movie’s runtime puts considerable pressure on the rest of the performing cast (of which there are many exceptionally talented dancers) to make up for the lack of the series’ signature “Magic” that Tatum typically provides throughout. Thankfully, seeing Mike take on the role of creative director and choreographer of a brand new troupe of talented strippers, instead of dancing himself, does make his eventual return to “the pole” at the movie’s climax, all the more satisfying. 

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However, even more than the supplementary influx of elite dance talent that gets injected into ‘Magic Mike’s Last Dance,’ the most effective new addition to the cast is easily Salma Hayek’s Maxandra. For one, Hayek does indeed get the chance to flaunt some dancing skills of her own, most notably in a infectiously fun salsa-duet shared between her and Tatum set to Elvis Crespo’s “Suavamente.” Hayek’s natural magnetic quality as a screen presence, and her endearing portrayal of a woman who is consumed and driven by her passions but paralyzed by her self-doubting fear of failure, instantly makes her the most compelling and fleshed-out love interest that Mike has contended with thus far. While the camaraderie of Mike and the rest of the “Kings of Tampa” (Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, Kevin Nash, etc) is sorely missed, the strength of Hayek’s charisma and her apparent chemistry with Tatum fills in most of the emotional gaps, and steadies a movie that would otherwise feel utterly rudderless. 

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The Soderbergh Special

Aside from Tatum, whose real-life experience as a stripper served as the inspiration for the original ‘Magic Mike’ the other creative voice that is most responsible for shaping the overall tone of the ‘Magic Mike’ universe is Oscar-Winning Director-for-hire extraordinaire, Steven Sordebergh. Sodebergh of course directed ‘Magic Mike’ and, while ‘Magic Mike XXL’ was officially directed by Gregory Jacobs, it was still shot, edited and produced by Soderbergh himself. Now returning for the final installment in what is his second major trilogy (after the ‘Ocean’s’ trilogy), Soderbergh is playing to his stylistic and tonal strengths in ‘Magic Mike’s Last Dance.’ His elite technical and formal abilities as a director blend seamlessly with his decidedly un-snobbish taste in the projects that he chooses to take on. He values the irreplaceable bump that legitimate movie stars like Tatum and Hayek provide together on screen. Soderbergh is the kind of filmmaker who, more often than not, consciously chooses to lean into exactly what he knows audiences want to see occur in any given genre, for maximum entertainment value. But even in his most commercial productions Soderbergh always includes a subtly devastating or even an outright transgressive subtextual commentary that exists beneath the effortlessly cool aesthetics of his movies, and is accentuated by his specific stylistic filmmaking choices. 

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No one takes more pleasure in crafting an enchantingly elegant camera movement, or a striking use of saturated color and obscured framing in order to depict something that is considered to be low-brow or borderline trashy, like Steven Soderbergh. In all of the ‘Mike’ movies, Soderbergh directs his camera coverage of male strippers as if he’s shooting the Paris Opera Ballet. That is to say, with the utmost emphasis on respecting the transcendent quality of the performer’s artistry. He seems to be perpetually fascinated by the way the body moves on screen, and furthermore, by the primal release of ecstasy and uninhibited glee that the adoring crowds of women experience when they’re up close and personal to these undulating, golden-thong-wearing adonises. The standout sequences in ‘Magic Mike’s Last Dance’ include a perfectly paced and tonally calibrated montage (a Soderbergh staple) of Mike and Maxandra discovering and auditioning the best male street dancers from across the city of London, or the almost thirty-minute long multi-phased stripping extravaganza that closes the movie, are all littered with stunning moments of physical beauty and dazzling feats of animal magnetism that can genuinely make the viewer feel as if they are being swept off their feet and glided into a full-body cradle by Mike Lane himself. 

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It’s Raining Men

Many have recently speculated on why there has been such a profound lack of sexual content featured in modern American Cinema. This elemental aspect of human existence has always been present in our stories, and its ostensible erasure from the contemporary movie mono-culture is a fascinating and disconcerting phenomenon. ‘Magic Mike’s Last Dance’ and the entire ‘Magic Mike’ trilogy, despite having zero traditional “sex” scenes across all three movies, displays a deep understanding of the massive importance that sex, and the potent collective sexual desire of society, plays in our lives, and should therefore, play in our movies. In one of the more bravura dance sequences in recent movie memory, ‘Magic Mike’s Last Dance’ brings the house down in its final act, with a viscerally sexual, rain soaked duet performed by Tatum’s Mike and a ballerina played by Kylie Shea.

This moment is simultaneously sexier than any sex scene from any American movie released in the last five years, and more achingly beautiful to behold than almost any musical sequence this decade too. This trilogy is loaded with jaw-dropping moments of in-camera performance like this, but the element that will likely make these movies last as significant cultural objects through generations, is the wonderfully naturalistic performances that Channing Tatum and his fellow actors, deliver in these roles, and the palpable empathy and likability that a group of dancing, half-naked men can inspire. 

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Cast: Channing Tatum, Salma Hayek, Caitlin Gerard, Alan Cox, Nancy Carroll, Vicki Pepperdine, Adam Rodriguez, Kylie Shea, 

By Dillon Goss-Carpenter

Click here to read The Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s love letter to Cinema, TV and Media. An excerpt from the love letter: The Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, We have the space and time for all your stories, no matter who/what/where you are. Media/Cinema/TV have a responsibility to better the world and The Hollywood Insider will continue to do so. Talent, diversity and authenticity matter in Cinema/TV, media and storytelling. In fact, I reckon that we should announce “talent-diversity-authenticity-storytelling-Cinema-Oscars-Academy-Awards” as synonyms of each other. We show respect to talent and stories regardless of their skin color, race, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, etc., thus allowing authenticity into this system just by something as simple as accepting and showing respect to the human species’ factual diversity. We become greater just by respecting and appreciating talent in all its shapes, sizes, and forms. Award winners, which includes nominees, must be chosen on the greatness of their talent ALONE.

I am sure I am speaking for a multitude of Cinema lovers all over the world when I speak of the following sentiments that this medium of art has blessed me with. Cinema taught me about our world, at times in English and at times through the beautiful one-inch bar of subtitles. I learned from the stories in the global movies that we are all alike across all borders. Remember that one of the best symbols of many great civilizations and their prosperity has been the art they have left behind. This art can be in the form of paintings, sculptures, architecture, writings, inventions, etc. For our modern society, Cinema happens to be one of them. Cinema is more than just a form of entertainment, it is an integral part of society. I love the world uniting, be it for Cinema, TV, media, art, fashion, sport, etc. Please keep this going full speed.”

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