by Rob DiCristino
When we first meet male entertainment extraordinaire Mike Lane (Channing Tatum) in 2012’s Magic Mike, he presents as a charming multi-hyphenate, an ambitious go-getter perched just at the edge of legitimate success. He’s posturing a bit, sure, never quite as capable or organized as he claims to be, but his is a world of sharp looks and easy smiles, a world in which a little confidence can open just as many doors as the most precise technical acumen. It’s prickly beauty Brooke (Cody Horn) who sees the self-deception behind that swagger, eventually inspiring Mike to quit the gyrational arts and make his entrepreneurial dreams a reality. The custom furniture business is as unforgiving as any, though, and by 2015’s Magic Mike XXL, Brooke has moved on to greener pastures and left Mike to stew on yet another collection of unrealized goals. And so Mike joins the Kings of Tampa for one last ride, a raucous symphony of self-affirmation celebrating that unquenchable thirst, that same charm and energy he’d tried so hard to stamp out.
Returning to the director’s chair after turning XXL over to cinematographer Gregory Jacobs, Steven Soderbergh brings his signature slick naturalism to Last Dance, and it’s clear from the film’s steamy opening number that Channing Tatum hasn’t lost a step — pun intended — in the dance department. Series screenwriter Reid Carolin mixes old themes at new angles, building a literal cathedral out of XXL’s exploration of feminine agency and positive, empowering masculinity. As they dance to Mike’s tune, our hunky boys are acting out Max’s repressed desires and flipping an, ahem, engorged middle finger at the jerkass ex-husband who once owned their stage. The essential metaphor is more explicit — no pun intended, that time — than ever, as Zadie’s voice-over narration charts the history of dance as social connection. There’s plenty of connection in Last Dance, enough to send even the squarest audiences home with new ideas on how to forge some “connections” of their own. Sex, I mean. Boning. I’m talking about boning.
Magic Mike’s Last Dance is in theaters now.