In the original Magic Mike, every slap sounds wet.
When Matthew McConaughey puts his hand on Alex Pettyfer in the gym while teaching him how to properly gyrate his hips, you can practically feel the Tampa humidity gluing their skin together upon release. The sex appeal is there, and it’s undeniable, even if it’s grimy. The film’s sequel, Magic Mike XXL, doubles down on the sexy dance numbers and is a little more stylized. Suddenly, we’re looking at music video sweat—not sticky Florida sweat. The result? An even sexier movie.
And so, dear reader, I ask you: What in the name of metallic cock socks were they doing with Magic Mike’s Last Dance—a movie so compulsively unsexy it could make the Nile run dry?
At first, I wondered if it was just me. I mean, Channing Tatum remains as charismatic and goofy as ever, and his dance moves still seem to defy the laws of science. Was this movie really less sexy than the first two, or had my anger over the movie’s (baffling) choice to film a series of dances as a montage (and not even an on-beat one at that!) clouded my judgment? It turns out that I was right.
Slate magazine has done a statistical analysis of all three films to determine which is really sexiest, by the numbers. The results? Just as I suspected: Magic Mike’s Last Dance underperforms in almost every category, including number of dance scenes; amount of male nudity; and number of lap dances. Remember how Magic Mike XXL featured not one but two simulated ejaculations using common food items? Yeah, none of that here.
Truthfully, however, my issue with Magic Mike’s Last Dance had less to do with the number of bare butts on screen (although there were definitely not enough) and more to do with pretty much every other choice. Somehow, this conclusion seems to have lost sight of what made the rest of the saga so great.
The first red flag about Magic Mike’s Last Dance is that it made him get rid of his boys. While the first two films revel in the camaraderie between Mike and his fellow dancers, this one puts an ocean between them.
We begin in Florida, where Mike bartends a charity event and meets a wealthy, flighty woman named Maxandra Mendoza (Salma Hayek), who sweeps him off to London to become the director of a new stage production after he gives her an exceptional lap dance. Maxandra’s adopted pre-teen daughter can’t stand her, but she befriends Mike—and for some reason, their friendship inspires her pre-teen daughter Zadie (Jemelia George) to write an essay about dance that serves as the film’s narration.
Although we see Ken, Big Dick Richie, Tito, and Tarzan every now and then via video call, Mike Lane is otherwise adrift across the pond. All that spectacular homoeroticism and camaraderie from the first two films is gone, replaced by a new crew of dancers who leave absolutely no impression.
The loss of Mike’s squad amounts to more than a loss of abs. (Although, let’s all take a moment of silence for those abs.) Those guys are also the biggest constant across the franchise. They’re what keep Mike in his element, and therefore at his most sexy. During the first two films, Mike changed locations and girlfriends; the constant in his life was friendship. Magic Mike’s Last Dance signals that Mike has entered a new phase in his life—one in which he’s ready to drop the incompatible girlfriends and road-trip flirtations for something more durable. Unfortunately, the relationship he chooses is far from compelling.
Mike and Maxandra’s vibe is supposed to be sexy—they’re trying to stay platonic while working together, although it’s clear that won’t last long—but there’s also a giant cloud hanging over them. Maxandra worries Mike’s using her for money, and Mike worries he’s just a pawn in Maxandra’s latest pet project. In many ways, Magic Mike’s Last Dance plays more like a rom-com than a hang-out movie like the first two. But did that have to make it less raunchy?
Consider Mike’s first dance for Maxandra. Channing might’ve been humping every surface in sight, but where was the ambience? Why did the lighting remind me of a Macy’s just before closing? I simply refuse to believe that a person as wealthy as Maxandra would settle for anything less than bespoke lighting. The choreography felt off, too—almost self conscious in its intentional over-the-top silliness. Can we not sincerely enjoy a sexy display for what it is?
For some baffling reason, Salma Hayek doesn’t even get to be in the final dance number. (You can’t tell me it’s because she can’t dance; I saw her breaking out those Britney Spears moves to promote her movie The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard a couple years ago!)
Mike’s first girlfriend in the franchise, Brooke, never danced with him in Magic Mike, but his road-trip flirtation in Magic Mike XXL, Zoe, gets a whole finale dance to herself. Where’s Salma’s dance?! Why couldn’t Magic Mike’s Last Dance be both a culmination of his personal and professional journey and also the sexiest installment? Maybe the road-trip highs of Magic Mike XXL made me greedy.
In some ways, Magic Mike’s Last Dance might give the illusion of a sexy movie. There are a lot of bodies dancing on screen, and the choreography is very “hump-the-ground” forward. I mean, we literally end on a dance number that finds Mike sliding around a flooded, wet stage with a ballerina in white. Still, there’s something more clinical about this movie’s approach—a desire, it seems, to “elevate” what Mike was doing before with money and production value.
Unlike the first two films, which seemed to thrive in sticky humidity, Magic Mike’s Last Dance leans into the cold, hyper-produced aesthetics usually reserved for Fifty Shades movies and perfume commercials. But wasn’t unsanitized sexuality what made Magic Mike and Magic Mike XXL so refreshing in the first place?
Like the Fifty Shades movies, this filmseems to make these choices with its tongue planted firmly in its cheek—and for a while, it works. In fact, the film’s funniest moment might be when Mike starts clearing every sparkling surface in Salma Hayek’s gorgeous home for a lapdance. At the same time, Magic Mike’s Last Dance feels too sterile.
Everything, from Salma Hayek’s apartment to the London theater where Mike will debut a brand-new stripping sensation, is pristine. Mike might feel comfortable dry humping on all of it, but as we’ve already learned from Slate, he actually does less of that in this movie, too. But, hey, good for Mike Lane, at least. At long last, it seems this bachelor has found a partner who knows how to ride.
Keep obsessing! Sign up for the Daily Beast’s Obsessed newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok.