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Review
An opinion piece that you describe, praises or criticizes, on the whole or partly, to cultural or entertainment work. It must be written by an expert on the matter

‘Magic Mike’s Last Dance’: Steven Soderbergh gets tangled up on stripper’s pole

‘Magic Mike’s Last Dance’, the third installment of the saga about the dignified and noble stripper, has lost even the (relative) freshness of the original, structured on the classic rise, fall and redemption of a self-made human being

Magic Mikes Last Dance
Channing Tatum and Salma Hayek in 'Magic Mike's Last Dance.'
Javier Ocaña

At the time of the release of Magic Mike, a film directed by Steven Soderbergh and produced by the actor Channing Tatum, based on his real-life experience as a stripper before he got his break as an actor, the American filmmaker had already threatened several times to retire. It was 2012 and the film, which had a budget of just $7 million, grossed $167 million worldwide. By then, Soderbergh had already entered a strange career drift in which he was alternating small (and very uneven) productions shot in digital with lavish, star-studded blockbusters.

Nobody could quite get a handle on Soderbergh’s career, perhaps because not even he understood it himself, especially after his numerous announcements of an early retirement that never materialized ceased to be taken seriously by the media. Soderbergh’s last dance, no matter how much he himself advertised it, never happened. Instead, he has continued to direct movies — eight in the last seven years alone — albeit ones that are increasingly hidden on streaming platforms or in theaters. That someone like Soderbergh, winner of the Cannes Palme d’Or at the age of 26 for Sex, Lies and Videotape (1989) and the Oscar for Best Director for Traffic (2001), has directed a product (and the word is no accident) like Magic Mike’s Last Dance, released a few days ago on HBO, may remain a mystery to specialists. But, in any case, it is a mystery that has been underscored for some time. That of a voracious filmmaker without the slightest capacity to choose scripts, to whom everything seems justifiable in pursuit of his hunger for images, and perhaps the challenge of sustaining the unsustainable.

Magic Mike’s Last Dance, the third installment of the saga about the dignified and noble stripper, is a nonsense from beginning to end. Along the way it has lost even the (relative) freshness of the original, structured on the classic rise, fall and redemption of a self-made human being. It has also eschewed reflections on the new economy, globalization and the crass liberalism that sometimes corrodes the working class, while power bathes in a pool of numbers containing more and more zeros. That is where films like Snitch, The Girlfriend Experience, Contagion and, in many ways, Magic Mike went. But in this third movie, after a forgettable sequel helmed by Soderbergh’s regular assistant director, Gregory Jacobs, we are verging on Pretty Woman in reverse. A Pretty Man, with a millionaire played by Salma Hayek, taking on the power and the smile of Richard Gere, mixed with a rancid by-product that seems destined for bachelorette party women who want to hide their libido-boosting pretensions with the vision of a contemporary dance show in London’s West End. Artistic sex, the musical.

The script would be a hilarious folly, almost to be filed in the camp category, if it were funny at all. But it takes itself so seriously as a reflection on dance, and not on the economy or new societies over the last decade, that it is embarrassing. “Dancing heals wounds when words are not enough” and “Mike knew that dancing brought people together, even snobs” are some of the phrases uttered in insulting voiceover. Pearls of a childish narrator (the daughter of the rich woman who hires the protagonist) who wants us to paper over with almost Jane Austen-style art what is simply delirium.

Either you warm up the staff, as in Tatum’s initial dance at Hayek’s house, or you bestow them with significance. But this stale, steamy slice of lust-light catechism is unbearable.

MAGIC MIKE'S LAST DANCE

Director: Steven Soderbergh.

Starring: Channing Tatum, Salma Hayek, Ayub Khan-Din, Jemelia George. 

Genre: Drama. USA, 2023.

Platform: HBO.

Duration: 112 minutes.

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