If I were a part of Warner Brothers’ test audience for Magic Mike’s Last Dance, the third entry in Steven Soderbergh’s trilogy, I’d probably have strongly reacted to it too.

Oh, wait. I did have a strong, visceral reaction to it!

Channing Tatum returns as the titular character, now a retired stripper in Miami doing odd jobs to keep himself afloat. Here’s the exciting thing about Magic Mike’s character arc: in Steven Soderbergh’s first film, 2012’s Magic Mike, we see the character as an entertainer looking to make moves as he’s coming out of his party-ish adolescence. In fact, Magic Mike’s Last Dance screenwriter Reid Carolin, who helped Tatum develop the character for his cinematic . . .umm . . .exploits reminds the audience some eleven years later of one of Mike’s famed dances toward the beginning of the new film. That’s the thing about Magic Mike, the character – he is memorable. So is Tatum.

To get the character to the point at which we see him in Magic Mike’s Last Dance, he had to do some growing up. Ok, a lot of growing up, and that’s where Magic Mike XXL from 2015 comes into play, albeit less successful than the original Magic Mike.

Where, then, does that leave us with the character?

Carolin, Soderbergh, and Tatum remind us of who Magic Mike is in this latest installment. His woodworking business has gone bust. He has to grow up, taking some cues from Cinderella and its adult version, Pretty Woman, Magic Mike’s Last Dance finds the retired stripper whisked away to London by Maxandra Mendoza, played gleefully by Salma Hayek Pinault.

Yes, the opening frames (and the trailer!) of Magic Mike’s Last Dance recall the dancer’s earlier exploits. The character has grown up, perhaps out of the party life, dammit.

Still, he has moves, and Mike knows what Maxandra, a wealthy London socialite needs to release her inhibitions. Tatum plays the reluctance angle his alter ego feels, and we believe his steadfastness in what Maxandra asks of him throughout this particular story. Tatum is less jocular and more responsible than he was in the previous two films, but he is no less exciting. As Magic Mike, there are no limits. There is respect, though, distinguishing the character from the earlier films. It’s almost as if Tatum channeled his inner Patrick Swayze, a la Dirty Dancing.

Hayek Pinault pushes his buttons this time as she thrusts Mike into London high society, hoping that Mike can produce a play in a theater she got as a settlement of a divorce. Along the way, Mike becomes a fish-out-of-water, something that Tatum, the actor, does not feel entirely comfortable with, and it comes across the screen.

Still, he has a job to do, and there is respect and faith as Maxandra gives Mike complete control of the show. Well, almost. A dichotomy exists between the alter egos of Magic Mike and Mike that this story explores, and within the story’s framework, it works: we need to know when to let go of the ties that bind us, proverbially, of course.

Magic Mike’s Last Dance is fun if you don’t overthink the story or the characters. It is a stronger film than Magic Mike XXL, yet it doesn’t hold a candle to the original Magic Mike. Even within the film’s themes of letting go, it’s still wound too tightly.

That’s partly due to what the production went through. Warners’ intended Magic Mike’s Last Dance as a direct-to-HBO Max streaming entry in the trilogy. A well-received test screening convinced the studio executives that the film deserved a theatrical release.

They weren’t wrong either: Magic Mike’s Last Dance is the most adult of the three films; Tatum brings the character around full circle. Salma Hayek Pinault is a big reason for that transformation. The story still feels as if it was intended for the smaller screen; the characters are more significant while the story is thinner.

But Magic Mike isn’t a monogamous character, so if this does well, and with a relatively low cost to market and advertise itself, it is entirely possible that we could see more Magic Mike.

If this is Magic Mike’s Last Dance, it managed to pull out more complex characters with a thinner story, one that grinds and thrusts its way toward a firm conclusion. For Magic Mike, that is.

And that’s not an entirely bad thing.