BRIAN VINER reviews Magic Mike's Last Dance

Day Mike’s six-pack lost its magic: BRIAN VINER reviews Magic Mike’s Last Dance

Magic Mike’s Last Dance (15, 112 mins) 

Verdict: Woefully flaccid

Rating: ** 

Women Talking (15, 104 mins) 

Verdict: Earnest but powerful

Rating: *** 

Not since I went to see The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, surrounded by the under-tens, have I felt so disconnected from a target audience as I did watching Magic Mike’s Last Dance. It can be lonely sitting outside a demographic, looking in.

As the lights dimmed at Tuesday evening’s preview screening, a kind of anticipatory restlessness settled over the overwhelmingly female crowd, which gave way to whoops of excitement as soon as Channing Tatum, the beefcake’s beefcake, appeared in the title role.

In front of me, a young man alongside his girlfriend also gave a little whoop, followed by a self-conscious laugh to signify that it had been, you know, ironic.

Our hero, when we first meet him in this second sequel to the 2012 hit Magic Mike, is on his uppers, working as a barman at a party in Miami. But pouring drinks for others doesn’t mean he can’t still whip out his six-pack.

Our hero, when we first meet him in this second sequel to the 2012 hit Magic Mike, is on his uppers, working as a barman at a party in Miami

His employer for the evening is a rich socialite, Maxandra, better known as Max, silkily played by Salma Hayek. When she hears that he is a former stripper, she pays him to burst out of retirement by giving her a private show, which turns into an extravaganza of erotic thrusting and whirligiging during which, I noticed, the young man in front of me stayed silent. Irony can go only so far.

Mike and Max end up in bed, which is no surprise. After all, who wouldn’t need a lie down following a cardiovascular workout like that?

She then hires him to go with her on her private jet to London for a month. Yes, he’s going to be a thong for Europe, because as part of a divorce settlement from her media-mogul husband, Max has been given a whole West End theatre.

There is a staid Victorian play going into production. But she wants Mike to direct a strip show instead. For his ‘services’, she will pay him $60,000. Obviously, he is insistent he will not dance himself. Even more obviously, he does.

On paper, all this makes Magic Mike’s Last Dance sound daft but fun, a cheeky subversion of the Pretty Woman story combined with the hackneyed ‘comeback’ premise. On screen, alas, the fun quickly dwindles. Even the loudest whoopers on Tuesday evening were subdued by the end.

Tatum and Hayek are charismatic performers and there’s a kind of electrical charge between them, but Steven Soderbergh’s direction and Reid Carolin’s writing, so jaunty in the original 2012 film, here just feel jaded and, well, damp. And as in life so it is in the cinema; dampness eventually gets the better of electricity.

It almost feels as if, having agreed to embark on a final leg of the Magic Mike journey and boldly deciding to give us a strong female character for the first time, both director and writer then lost enthusiasm for the entire enterprise.


The great Bette Davis is on fabulous form in this romantic melodrama, every bit the equal of Casablanca, which came out three months later.

Saturday, BBC2, 1pm


There’s plenty of taut muscularity in the dance routines, but the rest is just flab. And the secondary characters such as Max’s teenage daughter (ill-advisedly also given pompous narration duties) and her lugubrious manservant (Ayub Khan Din) are weirdly unconvincing.

It’s a shame, really. The first two films were hen-party heaven, but this one, I suspect, will send the hens away clucking in disappointment. As for myself, all things considered I preferred SpongeBob SquarePants.

The makers of Magic Mike’s Last Dance have claimed, laughably, that it is about the empowerment of women. So, a whole lot less laughably, is Women Talking, an intense drama written and directed by Canadian actress and filmmaker Sarah Polley.

The film, based on a 2018 novel, has bagged Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. It’s easy to see why. Extravagantly stuffed with acting talent (including Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Rooney Mara, Ben Whishaw and Frances McDormand, who co-produced), Women Talking all but dares awards voters to exclude it from their shortlists.

An opening caption proclaims the story to be ‘An Act of Female Imagination’, yet it is based on a true story about the habitual abuse of women, by their own menfolk, in a remote, ultra-religious Mennonite community in Bolivia.

The abuse happened in the early years of this century, but give or take the odd four-wheel drive, you could be forgiven for thinking this story is set 100 or even 200 years ago. These women have not been taught to read or write so they are ill-equipped for flight, yet flee they decide they must, because their husbands, brothers and fathers are routinely drugging them with animal tranquillisers and then raping them. If they do not go soon, they can expect the same depravities from their sons.

Wisely, Polley presents this horrifying saga only from the female perspective. We don’t see any of the abuse or even, except from afar, any of the men. The film’s only prominent male character is a kindly teacher, sensitively played by Whishaw, who chronicles the women’s animated discussions in a hayloft as they debate the best course of action.

As you would expect, the acting is superb and it’s hard to fault the writing. But the film is undermined by its own theatricality. For maximum impact, this story needs a stage, and a live audience.


Your Place Or Mine (109 mins, **) is one of those instantly forgettable rom-coms in which every line seems precision-tooled, and while precision-tooling might be exactly what you want in an engine, for example, it quickly makes movie dialogue insufferable.

Reese Witherspoon plays Debbie, an uptight divorced mother whose 13-year-old son Jack is allergy-ridden and friendless.

Debbie lives in LA, but talks every day to her laid-back best friend Peter (Ashton Kutcher), who lives in New York City. They have remained pals since a brief romantic entanglement 20 years earlier.

Debbie has plans to spend a week in New York with Peter, but when her childcare falls through he comes to LA to look after Jack, while she stays alone in his swanky Big Apple apartment.

Various misadventures duly befall them both, before writer-director Aline Brosh McKenna (whose screenplay credits include the greatly superior The Devil Wears Prada) ties the loose ends with a flourish that I mustn’t divulge. Let’s just say that When Harry Met Sally trod the same territory with much more wit and charm back in 1989.

Blue Jean (15, 97 mins, ***) whisks us more directly back to the late 1980s, as a Tyneside PE teacher called Jean (the excellent Rosy McEwen) tries to reconcile her sexuality with her conscience.

Jean is gay, but can’t bring herself to speak out against the controversial Clause 28 legislation proposed by Margaret Thatcher’s government, nor, more shamefully, to protect a lesbian pupil.

Writer-director Georgia Oakley makes a little too much of Cilla Black’s Blind Date as the chief symbol of a heterosexual society, and there’s really no need to have a gay woman wistfully leafing through (celebrated lesbian novel) The Well Of Loneliness, but those bits of clunkiness aside, it’s an engaging, thought-provoking, well-acted film.

  • Your Place or Mine is available on Netflix. Blue Jean is in cinemas.

Source: Read Full Article