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Review: The magic peaks early on in 'Magic Mike's Last Dance'

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

It's been more than a decade since Channing Tatum first starred in "Magic Mike," a comedy based on his own pre-acting stint as a stripper. Audiences showered it with more than $100 million and did that again for a sequel, so Tatum's back with a film called "Magic Mike's Last Dance." Critic Bob Mondello says, promises, promises.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: The first 17 minutes or so are everything a "Magic Mike" fan could wish. Mike's business ventures - both furniture- and exotic dance-related - have failed, so he's respectably clothed and bartending at a charity function in Miami when he's recognized.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MAGIC MIKE'S LAST DANCE")

CAITLIN GERARD: (As Kim) Wait, I know you. You were a cop, right?

CHRISTOPHER BENCOMO: (As Kim's husband) Did you arrest her?

CHANNING TATUM: (As Mike Lane) What's your name?

GERARD: (As Kim) Kim?

MONDELLO: That was a bachelorette party.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MAGIC MIKE'S LAST DANCE")

TATUM: (As Mike Lane) I let you off with a warning, right?

MONDELLO: She mentions Mike to their wealthy hostess, Maxandra, who is mid-divorce and wonders if Mike could stop by after the party to do that silly dance he did for Kim.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MAGIC MIKE'S LAST DANCE")

TATUM: (As Mike Lane) Kim said that - it was silly?

SALMA HAYEK PINAULT: (As Maxandra Mendoza) Yeah. She said it was a silly dance but that it would get my mind off of things. And if she's right, I'm willing to pay six.

TATUM: (As Mike Lane) You're serious right now? You're going to pay me $6,000 to give you a dance?

HAYEK PINAULT: (As Maxandra Mendoza) Yeah, but no happy endings, huh?

MONDELLO: Mike doesn't say yes, but locks the door, pours Maxandra - who's played elegantly by Salma Hayek Pinault - a drink, checks some shelving to see how well it's anchored - for reasons we understand but Maxandra doesn't - and then...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MAGIC MIKE'S LAST DANCE")

TATUM: (As Mike Lane) May I touch you?

MONDELLO: The seduction begins and builds from a sensual lap dance to a feverishly steamy hip-thrusting, back-arching, pelvis-grinding and even dolphin-diving climax. You'll want to savor it because there's nothing in the next hour and a half that remotely approaches it for entertainment value, including an ill-advised callback to its more memorable moves in a finale that is bigger and wetter - by which I'm afraid I mean rain-soaked - and not nearly as sexy. Director Steven Soderbergh and company seem to have decided, with a plot that heads off to London for a complicated story about revamping a stage show, that what's really been missing from "Magic Mike" movies is dialogue - dialogue about empowering women...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MAGIC MIKE'S LAST DANCE")

HAYEK PINAULT: (As Maxandra Mendoza) I want every woman to feel that a woman can have whatever she wants whenever she wants.

MONDELLO: ...Dialogue about the show they're revamping, which is essentially about empowering women...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MAGIC MIKE'S LAST DANCE")

TATUM: (As Mike Lane) So what's this show about?

HAYEK PINAULT: (As Maxandra Mendoza) It's the same old - will she marry for love or money?

TATUM: (As Mike Lane) So what did she pick - love or money?

HAYEK PINAULT: (As Maxandra Mendoza) The real question is - why does she feel like she has to choose?

MONDELLO: ...Dialogue about empowering Mike and Maxandra, which is essentially about empowering women.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MAGIC MIKE'S LAST DANCE")

TATUM: (As Mike Lane) You cannot say that what we've created so far isn't special, and I'm not going to just let us give up on it.

MONDELLO: Now, I'd like to say right here that I am all for all of that. But you know that adage about how dramatists should show, not tell - the one the first two "Magic Mike" movies made flesh, as it were, by leaving very little about male anatomy to the imagination? Well, this one is more about leaving very little unsaid. There is a mildly amusing dance routine on a bus and an audition sequence that visits London street corners and Italian ballet studios in search mostly of break dancers.

But the buddy banter that made the first two movies pop when the dancing stopped - replaced by earnest declarations. And the sexy dance routines - replaced largely by acrobatics. In terms of choreography, that may be, as the title of an early Tatum movie had it, a step up, but it's not rousing or arousing. And as charming and gallant and appealing as Channing Tatum still is, it means there's a bit less magic this time from "Magic Mike."

I'm Bob Mondello.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LAST DANCE")

DONNA SUMMER: (Singing) Let's dance the last dance tonight. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.
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