By Roshan Chandy
Gives something for the girls to do and saves the best til last.
Very few trilogies can claim the title that the third film is the best in the series. We’re generally used to part one laying the groundworks, the second film outclassing the original and the third ending on a poignant whimper if Return of the Jedi (1983) or the Sofia Coppola cut of The Godfather: Part III (1990) are anything to go by. Well, guess what? We now have a threequel that is the best of the lot by far in a series I wasn’t expecting to like and loathed the second film. I absolutely loved Magic Mike from 2012 which was just about the most empowering movie ever made about male strippers, but was grossly undermined by 2015’s Magic Mike XXL which was basically middle-aged dad bod pornography and misogynistic voyeuristic fantasia.
Much like, many of the most mainstream trilogies of recent times, this third Mike brings back the auteur behind the first movie as Star Wars and Jurassic Park did by bringing back J.J Abrams and Colin Treverrow for the third movie. Yet, unlike both those franchises which had a much less conventional, much more auteurist, much more arthouse filmmaker directing the second installment and were both times highly divisive as a result, Steven Soderbergh is very much the auteur behind this bad boy series – this is very much his baby and there’s no American filmmaker alive that does stylish, populist, star-studded entertainment quite like the man who is 60, but barely looks a day older than 35.
Magic Mike was such an entertaining movie utterly ruined by Magic Mike: XXL which was exactly the kind of s**tshow and porn tape that every bit of promotional material suggested about the Pam and Tommy-esque tale of a group of Miami strip-off boys. Why the first Magic Mike so worked and Paul Verhoeven’s Showgirls so didn’t was that it had a wonderful satirical sensibility; trading twentysomething women’s orgasmic reactions to sweaty hunks going butt-naked in mankinis for the fact that this kind of voyeurism is exactly what makes people turn their noses up at Eminem’s ‘The Real Slim Shady’. The saucy scenes are funny because you’re meant to laugh at how bloody sad, pathetic and objectifying this whole sex industry really is.
Magic Mike worked because it gave the girls something to gush over and the boys too as we watched attractive girls getting all hot and bothered over men as good-looking as Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey. It was relatable to both men and women and set us all on fire in the best, least sexual kind of way. Magic Mikes Last Dance’ works because it plays on this satirical sensibility while adding in a dose of Londinium West End commentary, seriously sexy dance numbers and putting the ladies front and centre of Soderbergh’s striptease empowerment and celebration of the human body.
I absolutely loved the way this series celebrates the West End which is the area of London I know best and visit the most – it might just be my favourite place in the world. Everything about Britain’s Broadway is cherished and fist-pumped with Sohoian pride of the highest order. You’ll spot the Duke of York’s Theatre, the Old Vic, Harold Pinter, not to mention the many Soho strip bars all under one roof. There’s even an absolutely fantabulous dance number at St. Pancras which is the greatest station in the world and always looks and sounds so Sigridly fabulous at Christmas when the piano is playing.
If the first Magic Mike championed Miami and its backwater, crocodile-filled passion for hot n’ cold manic energy, this third film is London on loop. It’s a paean to everything that makes London the greatest city in the world and revels in every glory and grotesquery of this both very modern and very classical metropolis. There’s truly something quite revolutionary and inspiring about the way musical numbers just leap off the West End stage which is exactly what people love about Broadway in New York. Personally I think that place has nothing on London’s theatres which are the best in the world and have given birth to some truly cracking best acts.
There were certain sequences that really put me in mind of Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho (2021) which was a film I admired more than liked. What I did love about that film was that it painted London with a light and dark – a bit of brightness and shade which is the key to any leading city’s success. I have to say too that this movie has just about the best use of St. Pancras ever put to film (why isn’t this station as well-known as Grand Central in New York? It’s better for sure). I can also really imagine seeing Magic Mike on the stage – how gushingly, blushingly fabulous that would be to see it with a bunch of screaming, ecstatic ladies going wild over Channing Tatum with his top off. I’m a 25 year old bloke and can sure say he’s f***ing dead handsome…
As for Channing and the boys, there’s never been a better showcase for their symmetrical, tanned, chiselled abbed beauty. You should have heard the giggling and ecstasy that surrounded a cinema in Nottingham full of twentysomething girls when Channing donned the mankini. Sorry to be naughty, but this is a very naughty film in the best kind of way that celebrates the orgasmic power of physical attraction. Channing is perfectly cast in a way that only Brad Pitt can be in Fight Club (1999) – it’s a very Tyler Durden-esque performance full of pouts, smoulders and sexy groin-grabbing physicality. You really get the sense you are watching the sexiest man alive grind into action. Again, sorry if any of this sounds voyeuristic. I can just confirm I want Channing’s abs and find him my new man crush!
But don’t worry, Soderbergh is a feminist genius and gives plenty for the girls to do too that isn’t going wild over the hottest guys on the planet. I absolutely adored Salma Hayek’s truly empowering performance as a gorgeous Latina socialite putting on a big show in the West End. It’s a performance so soaked in bechdel-body-beating women’s liberation empowerment and ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ loveliness that you forget Mrs Hayek is actually acting. It just feels so natural and so naturalistic in that purely Hispanic, Gloria from Modern Family kind of way.
Yet Salma isn’t the star of the show – that honour belongs to the Brit on the block and twentysomething new crush of mine Juliette Motammed who is not only absolutely beautiful, but one hell of a party host. See, this is Soderbergh celebrating the face of multicultural Asian Britain by putting women of the picture front and centre who are not your conventional big and blonde Brits. Through Ms Motammed, you really get the sense of what it must feel like for a twentysomething woman just two steps away from Channing Tatum. She can host my wedding party any time…
There’s so much to love about this final Magic Mike film which truly saves the best til last. It’s an absolutely wunderbar celebration of everything British, everything brawnily beautiful and empowers both men and women in the sex industry in a way that shouldn’t be, but is so acceptable. I loved this movie’s satirical sensibility and that it appeals to both lad-mag-reading boys and gushing ladies who will surely go to see this in droves. You can bet they won’t come out just over the moon at seeing Channing Tatum like that, but the fact that Britain, London and women are championed in the best possible way.
I hereby proclaim Magic Mikes Last Dance’ having saved the best til last and just about the best threequel of all time. You’ve got a beefy hunk for the ladies in Channing Tatum, a boy’s heartthrob in Juliette Motammed and a middle-aged man’s squeeze in Salma Hayek. That and some absolutely fantabulous London locations. Hollywood really need to come here and film more often…