Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 117 minutes.
Tag-line: "Some People Get Into Trouble No Matter What They WEAR."
Notable Cast or Crew: Demi Moore, Ving Rhames, Robert Patrick, Armand Assante, Burt Reynolds, Rumer Willis, Pandora Peaks. Cinematography by Stephen Goldblatt (THE HUNGER, THE COTTON CLUB, LETHAL WEAPON). Music by Howard Shore (AFTER HOURS, VIDEODROME, THE LORD OF THE RINGS).
Best one-liner: "I don't need no stripper to telling me how to live!"
Best eerily Hawksian exchange: "So we're it? A cop and a bouncer?" –"Plus two strippers and a kid. We're in great shape." Compare to RIO BRAVO: "A game-legged old man and a drunk. That's all you got?" –"That's WHAT I got."
Now here's a crowded, chinwagging tableau that would make Howard Hawks proud: "Creamed corn wrestling!" "-Corn?" "-Corn wrestling?" "-That's disgusting!" "-No chance that I'm gonna roll naked in creamed corn with a bunch of drunken yahoos trying to stick niblets up my hoo-ha!" Yep, that really just happened.
Note Fabio poster.
Playing out like an unholy second-generation love-child of Elmore Leonard and Menahem Golan, STRIPTEASE helped me come to grips with the fact that magic could still exist in a world where the 80's were no longer happening. The set-up is this: Judge awards custody of Rumer Willis to deadbeat dad Robert Patrick, and FBI employee Demi Moore must strip for her daughter's love. Kinda like the female OVER THE TOP, in a way.
The film takes this already mind-blowing premise and piles on more and more inspired lunacy at a breakneck pace: Bouncer Ving Rhames has a tiny monkey sidekick and imbues his performance with a genuine artistry that certainly isn't called for:
Armand Assante is wondering how the hell he got here (hint- this was his follow-up to JUDGE DREDD):
there's a Jewish stripper named 'Ariel Sharon' who has a crush on Steven Spielberg, Demi strips with a moody intensity that tells me she thought she had a shot at Oscar gold, and it all kind of somehow turns into a searing exposé of Big Sugar!
The courtroom tableaux are worth the price of admission alone:
"Your honor, my ex-husband is a THIEF. That hardly qualifies him to raise a seven-year old CHILD."
"Neithah does bein' a mothuh without a JOB!" [bangs gavel]
There's the obligatory post-shower towel dance, and I have to give points to STRIPTEASE for including it, because I think it only was actually obligatory from about 1982-1994.
Oh...and how could I forget: Burt Reynolds.
Reynolds plays Congressman Dilbeck (or, Congressman 'Dildo,' as he so eloquently states in one exchange) as if he is constantly drunk and/or mentally disabled. Kind of a 'chicken or the egg' question here is: 'Was Dilbeck written as a psychotic rummy, or did Reynolds just show up drunk and they took it from there?'
Don't answer that. He's even involved in a barfight, which I think must've been part of his contract since HOOPER. Reynolds is doddering around, covered in Vaseline, muttering things like "We can talk about anything you want, as long as you're nekkid."
As time has told, Reynolds is not your garden variety pervert (i.e., see my scholarly papers on the topics of goosing, necrophilia, et al. as presented in STROKER ACE and RENT-A-COP), yet STRIPTEASE kinda seeks to reduce and simplify his myriad depravities to level of a Saturday morning cartoon villain:
He likes having sexy ladies around.
He likes seizing sexy ladies.
He likes dancing with sexy ladies in his boxers, which may as well have big hearts on them.
I posit that this reductive, superficial view of Burt Reynolds perversion is dangerous and, on behalf of Liza Minnelli goosage, I daresay irresponsible. Though the Vaseline scene is pretty goddamned loopy, so I'll let it slide this time.
And speaking of Saturday morning cartoons, the finale involves slow-motion leaping and a denouement that has absolutely zero deviation from that of a SCOOBY-DOO episode.
All of this, naturally, contributes to the film receiving high marks from me. (Also see: DR. JEKYLL AND MS. HYDE).
In the end, STRIPTEASE is a serious drama with a smattering of light-hearted social satire. Er, allow me to submit a revision to that statement: Demi Moore thinks STRIPTEASE is a serious drama, and that ensures that its heart is, somehow, in the right place. It is her performance that gives it that patented Golan-Globus level of sincerity. I guess that's why it works. My only caveat– instead of $12.5 million, they probably should have paid Demi, say, whatever they gave Mario van Peebles for RAPPIN' or Lucinda Dickey for NINJA III...