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MAGIC MIKE’S LAST DANCE: 2 STARS. “a watered down ‘Pretty Woman’ rom com.”

It’s pretty clear that the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns left people feeling numb and slightly disconnected. To remedy this, “Magic Mike’s Last Dance” character Maxandra Mendoza (Salma Hayek Pinault) has a plan for a show unlike anything anyone has ever seen. “We’re going to wake up [the audience] with a wave of passion they’ve never felt before,” she purrs. Trouble is, I’ve seen the movie, and I’m still waiting for the wave of passion.

When we first meet wealthy socialite Maxandra she is the soon-to-be-divorced trophy wife to billionaire philanderer Roger Rattigan (Alan Cox). When she meets Mike Lane (Channing Tatum), a former superstar male dancer, now fallen on hard times, she is smitten. Broke and saddled with a failing furniture business, Mike is now bartending in Florida, working for tips.

When Maxandra offers $6000 for a striptease, the resulting acrobatic lap dance changes both their lives. “You gave me this magical moment,” she says, “that made me remember who I really was.”

Seeking to reclaim agency after her husband’s bad behaviour, Maxandra hires Mike to move to London and take over the Rattigan, the old West End theater where she worked as an actress eighteen years before.

“I want every woman that walks into this theatre to feel that a woman can have whatever she wants, whenever she wants,” says Maxandra.

The other movies in the “Magic Mike” franchise were a mix of swivelling hips and social commentary. They essayed the Florida’s real estate bust, the downturned economy, temptation and decadence. Those themes gave the movies some depth, a reason to engage the brain before the clothes came off.

The new one touches on the pandemic as the reason for Mike’s financial woes, but only briefly. The offhand mention feels like a plot device, a throwaway. The grand statements and subtext of the first two films has been watered down into a “Pretty Woman” style rom com, with a side of swivel, about how an upscale Chippendales show can have life altering effects. We’re never really told what those effects are, nor are they particularly obvious, but Maxandra never shuts up about them, so they must be in there somewhere amid the erotic “So You Think You Can Dance” numbers.Tatum brings his trademarked likability to the character and has good chemistry with Hayek Pinault, but overall, the heat has been turned down to a simmer. Abs are exposed, groins are ground but it feels very been-there-done-that. The inspiration that made the first film such an unexpected pleasure is missing, replaced by a tepid story and aimless eroticism.

“Magic Mike’s Last Dance” is essentially a Mickey and Judy, “Let’s put on a show” movie, but with more underwear and less enthusiasm.

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