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Movie review: 'Magic Mike's Last Dance' excites with showmanship, drama

Salma Hayek Pinault and Channing Tatum star in "Magic Mike's Last Dance." Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment
1 of 5 | Salma Hayek Pinault and Channing Tatum star in "Magic Mike's Last Dance." Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 7 (UPI) -- The Magic Mike franchise has come a long way from the 2012 film inspired by Channing Tatum's experience as a male stripper before becoming an actor.

Magic Mike's Last Dance, in theaters Friday, is the ultimate combination of Tatum's dance moves and showmanship.

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Mike lost his furniture business in the COVID-19 pandemic, which is a conveniently timely way to set him up for a new opportunity. While bartending for a party hosted by Maxandra (Salma Hayek Pinault), a guest reveals Mike's former job to her.

Max persuades Mike to give her one last dance, but he's so good that he inspires her to bring him back to London, where she owns a theater. Max empowers Mike to direct a dance show, which challenges him and complicates their romance.

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Mike's private lap dance for Max convinces the audience there's more juice in this franchise, too. He begins by rearranging the room for his performance and testing the fixtures upon which he'll later support himself.

Tatum, as Mike, really turns it on, getting close enough to Max to be intimate, but never actually kissing or making contact. They make sexual motions together, and one can see it provides the release Max needs -- in a way that's physically and emotionally safe.

Hayek has the erotic Ginger Rogers role. She's sort of dancing, too, but it's more reacting sensually than complementing Tatum's choreography.

Mike and Max do sleep together, and it is sincere. Mike doesn't do that with every client, and Max keeps Mike in the dark about her plans until she brings him to the theater.

What ensues is a fairly standard "putting on a show" story, but in the milieu of movie dancers who have to top the moves that fans of the first two films have seen.

The dancers Mike assembles in London are impressive. They never become characters off-stage, but they execute his choreography impressively.

Via auditions and rehearsals, the show starts to come together. Mike is not in the show, but he still has to step in to demonstrate to the newbies how it's done.

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With Max's radical new idea comes challenges as obstacles stand in Max and Mike's way. They solve as many as they can, and fortunately some are resolved by dancing.

The challenges to Max and Mike's relationship aren't so clear cut. Max has a history of unfinished projects, and her impending divorce is complicated by a prenuptial agreement.

Mike endures London snobs and gets to know Max's daughter, Zadie (Jemelia George). Zadie is skeptical of mom's new boy toy, but Max's butler, Victor (Ayub Khan Din), seems even more disapproving.

The show Mike puts on is actually clever. It has something to say about feminism and desire, all with epic dance numbers.

Last Dance is Mike's solo show. It does address the four dancers from the previous two films, and fortunately, they seem to be doing well, but they are missed.

They call it Magic Mike's Last Dance, but instead of closing the trilogy, this could be the Fast Five that takes the franchise in a bold new direction. Magic Mike could become a series in which Mike adds new members to his company and creates increasingly ambitious shows with each sequel.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Read more of his work in Entertainment.

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