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'Magic Mike's Last Dance'

The magic is gone

Salma Hayek Pinault and Channing Tatum in 'Magic Mike's Last Dance'. Photo credit: Warner Bros.

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When the original Magic Mike was released in 2012, I distinctly remember NOT saying, "That was a lot of fun, but there's clearly so much more nuance and complexity to the Magic Mike saga, we're going to need at least a trilogy to tell the whole story!" 

Not to disparage Steven Soderbergh's low-budget, big-profit, undeniably entertaining, sexually charged romp, which was a lot more fun than it had a right to be. Loosely inspired by star Channing Tatum's own experiences as an exotic dancer in Tampa, Florida, when he was 18, Magic Mike actually had a LOT going on, what with Mike having big business ambitions (oh, that denied-loan scene, so heartbreaking!) and an on-again, off-again thing with Olivia Munn's Joanna and also a budding relationship with Cody Horn's Brooke, who was the sister of Alex Pettyfer's "The Kid," a protege of Mike's who went off the rails, and let's not forget the star presence of Matthew McConaughey, who played "Dallas" a year before he hit Oscar gold in "Dallas Buyer's Club," and like I was saying, there's a lot going on in Magic Mike

Then came the half-baked sequel, Magic Mike XXL (2015), which had Mike making terrible furniture and changing up the game with the old dance crew or some such thing. And now we're getting Magic Mike's Last Dance, which is by far the most ridiculous entry in the trilogy and is one of the weirdest movies I've seen in recent memory - unfortunately not in a so-bad-it's-good kind of way. It's just relentlessly dumb, with a contrived plot that defies even the cartoonishly simplistic framework of the Magic Mike movies, and as if to acknowledge its own silliness, the final section of the movie is just one big, extended, squiggly-wiggly dance sequence that plays as if All That Jazz collided with the Magic Mike Live stage tour and left a waterlogged mess on the stage. 

The 42-year-old Tatum remains the easy master of the Friendly Bro onscreen persona, and he's still in tiptop Magic Mike shape as our title character, who at the outset of the story has seen his business ventures fail during the pandemic and is now working as a bartender. In a clever opening, Mike is working a charity event at a lavish estate in Miami when a guest named Kim (Caitlin Gerard) recognizes him and thinks they might have gone to school together, or was he once a police officer? Flashback to Magic Mike, with Mike dressed as a cop and stripping for college student Kim. (So, he sort of was a cop and they sort of did go to school together.) 

After the party winds down, Mike is summoned inside the house by the host, one Maxandra Mendoza (Salma Hayek Pinault), a depressed and restless business mogul who has heard from Kim about Mike's previous career and offers Mike $6,000 for one dance to cheer her up - but without a happy ending, she's not interested. After Mike rearranges the furniture, he proceeds to give Maxandra the dance of her life, with lots of bumping and grinding and gymnastics and even a blindfold, and what do you know, Mike and Max wind up in bed after all. Oh, that Mike.  Maxandra has another proposition for Mike: She'll pay him 60 grand if he'll accompany her to London for a month to just hang out, no physical strings attached, while she tends to some business affairs, reunites with her precocious daughter, Zadie (Jemelia George, adorable), and contends with her prickly estranged husband, Roger (Alan Cox). Under the disapproving watch of the driver/butler/bodyguard Victor (Ayub Khan Din), Maxandra gives Mike the Pretty Woman makeover treatment and even allows him to stay at her house - but again, no romance. There's not going to be a romance, OK? There's NO CHANCE of a romance. Cough-cough. 

Now comes the part where Magic Mike's Last Dance pretty much loses its mind. Turns out Maxandra's husband's family owns and operates a prestigious London theater called The Rattigan, where they've been staging the stuffy period-piece romance Isabel Ascendant, the story of a woman who must choose between the man she loves and the man who can provide her with financial comfort. Max has an epiphany: She'll put Mike in charge of revamping the play and turning it into a male-stripper stage show fantasy conveying the message that a woman can have whatever she wants, whenever she wants it! 

Cue the scenes where Mike and Max find the best dancers, whether it's on the street or in the park or via social media, and then there's this number where a bunch of guys do a choreographed dance routine on a city bus to win over a fussy bureaucrat who's standing in the way of renovations to the theater, and we haven't even talked about how Mike decides at the last minute they're gonna need a ballet dancer for the big finale, and the ballerina learns an intricately choreographed number in like six hours. The dance scenes are admittedly well-choreographed and filmed (that Soderbergh kid knows what he's doing behind the camera), but Last Dance isn't nearly as raw and sexy as the original. 

Amidst all the madness, we're supposed to believe Mike and Maxandra are falling in love, even though they hardly know each other and, quite frankly, Maxandra seems a little unhinged. Mike might be better off taking the 60 grand and hightailing it back to Florida.

Magic Mike's Last Dance

Two stars

STARS: Channing Tatum, Salma Hayek Pinault and Caitlin Gerard

DIRECTOR: Steven Soderbergh

RATED: R for sexual material and language

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