*½/**** Image A Sound A Extras C+
starring Channing Tatum, Salma Hayek Pinault, Ayub Khan Din, Vicki Pepperdine
written by Reid Carolin
directed by Steven Soderbergh
by Bill Chambers Loosely based on star and co-scenarist Channing Tatum's exotic-dancer past, Steven Soderbergh's Magic Mike was a pleasant surprise for treating the world of male strippers seriously--if finally too seriously, as the buoyant first half gives way to a heavy-handed moralizing reminiscent of Soderbergh's Traffic in the second. Sex work in Magic Mike is something to transcend through drugs or a trade skill. Gregory Jacobs's terrific follow-up, Magic Mike XXL, washed away the Afterschool Special aftertaste of the original by taking shame out of the equation: A road movie that finds Mike and the remaining "Kings of Tampa" travelling to a stripping convention in Myrtle Beach, it's a celebration of a certain esprit de corps. Despite the instantly iconic scene of Joe Manganiello dancing to "I Want It That Way" for the amusement of a supermarket cashier, Magic Mike XXL wasn't zeitgeist-defining like its predecessor, but it nails the hangout-movie vibe Soderbergh was chasing in his Ocean's sequels, and will no doubt endure as the Godfather Part II/Empire Strikes Back of Magic Mike movies. And what will Magic Mike's Last Dance go down as? Something like the Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo of the trilogy is my best guess. I have no idea if Soderbergh's longtime AD Jacobs was merely a figurehead on Magic Mike XXL, which was made in that weird period of Soderbergh's "retirement" from feature filmmaking (though he still served as the picture's cinematographer), but in returning to the helm for Magic Mike's Last Dance, Soderbergh directs like someone who's been shown where the g-spot is and can't for the life of him remember, so he'll have to bluff his way through it.