I See A Lot of Lawbreakers in the House Tonight!

I See A Lot of Lawbreakers in the House Tonight!

I love a dance movie. Give me two crazy kids from opposite sides of the tracks who have to win some sort of dance competition by discovering their own distinct style--which, obviously, will require hours of sweaty practice and rubbing against each other--and I'm a happy girl. Step Up is a classic of the genre, and it is the movie where I fell hard for Channing Tatum. Sure, he's got an incredible body, super-sexy dance moves, a pouty lower lip that begs to be kissed, and soulful eyes that seem like they can see into your heart. But what really shot him to the top of my Hall Pass list is the fact that underneath the body and the lip and the dance moves is a goofball doofus. Goofball doofus is my type, and Channing Tatum is a goofball doofus who can dance. I really enjoyed him in last year's The Lost City, but it only gave us a tiny taste of dancing. When I saw that a third installment in the Magic Mike franchise was hitting theaters, I knew it was time to revisit the whole series.

Magic Mike (2012): Mike (Tatum) is a hustler living in Tampa, Florida, making money any way he can while he saves up for his dream of opening his own custom furniture company. Adam (Alex Pettyfer) is a shiftless dropout sleeping on his sister's couch. When Mike and Adam meet on a roofing job, Mike introduces the kid to his other job: exotic dancing. Adam is suddenly immersed in a world of women, money and partying that threatens tow him under ... which is exactly the flaw of the first Magic Mike movie. There's a bunch of sexy, fun dance numbers that are undercut by a morality tale that makes the audience feel bad about enjoying those sexy numbers. Mike is clearly a very talented dancer with an awesome life, and the movie tells us that what he really wants is to make crappy furniture and date a boring naggy girl who hates everything he loves. I really like the sun-bleached griminess of the Florida setting, and Matthew McConaughey is excellent as a skeezy club owner who clearly can't be trusted. I just wish it wasn't trying to be a serious movie with a after-school special message about drug abuse. Just be a movie about sexy guys dancing!

Anyway, here's the scene that made Pony a Channing Tatum signature:

Magic Mike XXL (2015): It's three years later, and Mike is living his furniture dream...except that it turns out building and installing furniture kind of sucks, and his naggy boring girlfriend didn't want to marry him, and he's not making enough money to give his only employee health insurance. When his old dance buddies tell him they are going to a stripper convention in Myrtle Beach, Mike decides to join them for a road trip where they'll rediscover their mojo through the power of dancing and reclaim their identities as Male Entertainers. This movie does, in fact, supersize the things I liked about the first one: the dance scenes are more extravagant, the other dancers have much bigger roles, and it's more explicitly comedic. But it's also a gentler, sweeter movie, where the main characters all just want to have fun and make women happy with sexy dance routines that express their individuality. This is a dance movie about friendship! Even though this movie has basically no plot, and I have a lot of questions about the existance of a stripper convention and the waivers required to attend such an event, I think it's a great time and a must-watch.

Just watch these guys cheering on their bro!

Magic Mike's Last Dance (2023): The pandemic finally killed Mike's furniture store dreams, and he's working as a bartender at a fancy party when he catches the eye of Maxandra Mendoza (Salma Hayek), a lonely divorcee who asks him for a dance. Mike agrees, and proceeds to give her a lap dance so good that she decides that he's the perfect person to redesign a successful-but-dull stage show into a male revue. This is the point in the movie where plausibility is abandoned, but that's okay but I'll get some sexy stripteases soon, right? Right? Weirdly, this movie feels more like a sequel to Step Up than Magic Mike. The dancing is great, but with the exception of Mike's final dance scene (wowie zowie) it's not actually strip acts, it's just dancing. Which is great! I enjoyed myself! But there's none of the male camaraderie that made the second movie so charming. The love story between Mike and Maxandra is volatile, and I definitely don't have the sense that these two crazy kids are gonna stay together for the rest of their lives. But they'll be crazy people together, and I guess that's good enough.

There weren't any good clips from Last Dance on YouTube, so I'm gonna leave you with this Lip Sync Battle of Channing's ex-wife doing Pony, it's a delight.

Having seen them all, I think my Magic Mike ranking goes thusly:

  • Magic Mike XXL
  • Magic Mike's Last Dance
  • Magic Mike

What's your ranking? Let me know!