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What to Remember About the First Two Magic Mike Movies Before Watching Magic Mike’s Last Dance

6 minute read

There’s no doubt that Channing Tatum’s Mike Lane, a buff, furniture-designing stripper with a heart of gold has become a hero of the zeitgeist, a very profitable cultural phenomenon, and a feminist icon that’s enchanted the likes of Roxane Gay, all while redefining how people think of not only male exotic dancers, but masculinity. Mike returns to the silver screen this week in the third and final installment of Magic Mike franchise, Magic Mike’s Last Dance. The last film in the trilogy, which releases in theaters on Friday, sees Tatum reprising his role as Mike, alongside Salma Hayek, a sultry socialite with an international business proposition that he just can’t refuse.

The original film, inspired in part by Tatum’s own experiences as an 18-year-old stripper working in Tampa, FL., was a box office hit when it debuted in 2012, netting over $167 million worldwide. Directed by by Steven Soderbergh and written by Reid Carolin, the success of Magic Mike launched a universe, including a 2015 sequel, Magic Mike XXL, which was directed by Gregory Jacobs, a live show in Las Vegas and Miami, a London stage musical, and an HBO Max reality competition series, Finding Magic Mike, which follows male dancers auditioning for the Vegas show.

While the third film, which is directed by Soderbergh, will continue to follow the adventures of Tatum’s Mike, it finds its protagonist at a crossroads. Before we dive into Mike’s new escapades, it might be helpful to review what happened to him in the past. Ahead of the new Magic Mike, here’s a refresher course on what happened in the last two movies.

What happened in Magic Mike?

Viewers first met Mike Lane in 2012. In the first film, Mike is an aspiring furniture designer by day and the lead dancer at the Xquisite Strip Club in Tampa, FL., by night, working odd jobs as a handyman and jack-of-all-trades to pursue his dream of owning his own custom furniture business.

On a construction job, Mike meets Adam (Alex Pettyfer), a directionless college dropout who’s crashing on his sister’s couch, who he takes under his wing and encourages to join him working at the strip club alongside a group of dancers known as the “Kings of Tampa.” Adam becomes a hit at the strip club, much to the delight of the club’s over-the-top owner, Dallas (Matthew McConaughey) and develops a friendship with Mike, much to the concern of his sister, Brooke (Cody Horn), who, although wary of the hard-partying lifestyles of the dancers, strikes up a flirtatious friendship with Mike. Adam soon falls under the influence of drugs, making more and more foolish decisions including drug dealing, until it culminates in him losing drugs during a brawl at a private stripping gig.

After Adam’s supplier comes to collect the funds from the drugs, Mike pays Adam’s debt, using his life savings, then quits the strip club, walking out before an important final performance. While Dallas taps Adam to take Mike’s place, Mike and Brooke decide to pursue a relationship.

Read more: Why Aren’t Movies Sexy Anymore?

magic mike xxl
Claudette Barius—Warner Bros.

What happened in Magic Mike XXL?

Magic Mike XXL takes place three years after the end of Magic Mike. While Mike has finally realized his dream of owning his own furniture business, he and Brooke have broken up, and his personal life is in shambles. He’s drawn back into the world of dancing after he receives a call from his friends, the remaining “Kings of Tampa,” who are left in a financial lurch after club owner Dallas decamps for another country to open another club with only Adam.

The crew decides to reunite for a road trip to the final dance of their careers by competing at the Myrtle Beach male stripping convention, revamping their routines along the way. Along the way, the group experiences challenges and mishaps including crashing their car, a trip to the hospital, and a failed attempt to work with a former stripping associate, Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith), although their reunion with Rome results in Mike’s flirtation with photographer Zoe (Amber Heard). Eventually, thanks to the crew’s friendship and dancing skills, the Kings of Tampa make it to Myrtle Beach, where Rome agrees to work with the boys, culminating in a standout performance that includes Zoe appearing on stage with Mike.

Read more: Magic Mike XXL and the Rise of Man-jectification

How did Magic Mike XXL end?

While there was no concrete ending in Magic Mike XXL, the film was clear that the Myrtle Beach performance was the final dance performance for the Kings of Tampa, who were eager to pursue other careers. While Mike already had his furniture making business, others, like Tito and Tobias who had a food truck, were also looking to work in other fields besides dancing.

Salma Hayek Pinault as Maxandra Mendoza and Channing Tatum as Mike Lane in Magic Mike's Last Dance
Salma Hayek Pinault as Maxandra Mendoza and Channing Tatum as Mike Lane in Magic Mike’s Last Dance.Warner Bros Entertainment

Which characters will be back in Magic Mike’s Last Dance?

In Magic Mike: Last Dance, Mike, the franchise’s titular persona, is the only returning character with serious screentime. According to Adam Rodriguez, who appeared in the first two films in the franchise as Mike’s fellow dancer Tito, he and other familiar faces make a small cameo in the film, the final installation will mostly focus on Mike and new talent.

“It’s going to be a new crop of guys and so you’re going to be introduced to some new faces and fall in love with some new people,” the actor said in an interview with People. “[There is] an outside chance you might see some of the old guys briefly, but I wouldn’t count on it.”

Read more: Magic Mike’s Last Dance Starts Off Steamy But Stumbles Toward the Finish

What else can we expect from Magic Mike’s Last Dance?

While we know that Magic Mike: Last Dance takes place in London and will star Tatum as Mike and Hayek as Max, a wealthy socialite with a business proposition for him, according to Soderbergh, this installment will bring the heat with the dancing. According to an interview with Empire, Soderbergh says that the film will begin with a steamy dance number between Tatum and Hayek and conclude with an epic 30-minute dance sequence.

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Write to Cady Lang at cady.lang@timemagazine.com