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movie review out of 4 Movie Review: Striptease

Starring: Demi Moore, Armand Assante
Director: Andrew Bergman
Rated: R
RunTime: 117 Minutes
Release Date: June 1996
Genres: Drama, Erotica

*Also starring: Burt Reynolds, Ving Rhames, Robert Patrick, Paul Guilfoyle, Jerry Grayson, Rumer Willis, Robert Stanton, William Hill, Stuart Pankin

Review by Andrew Hicks
2 stars out of 4

About 14 months after its original release, I finally got around to seeing STRIPTEASE and, let me tell you, I could have waited at least another 14 months. There's good news and bad news about STRIPTEASE. The good news is that a lot of this movie is completely different from what it was marketed as -- Demi Moore Gets Topless. The bad news is that there is still a lot of focus on the Demi striptease motif which, as far as that goes, is nothing but a tease. As highly publicized and compensated ($12.5 million) as her nudity is, you get good, unadulterated glimpses of her breasts for maybe 12.5 seconds, which adds up to a million bucks a second. Even I'd get naked in a movie for that kind of money.

STRIPTEASE was adapted from a comic novel by Carl Hiaasen that made light of the skin trade and its patrons, and a lot of the comedy still shines through. Every character but Demi's is played for laughs, but it just doesn't work to have her dropped in as the one serious character, the one who sees her "dancing" as a form of art and expression, and a way to make an honest living. There's a moment early on where she holds up a cocktail napkin with a nude female silhouette and tells the owner of the club, "Get rid of these. They're tacky and they objectify women." Come on, Demi, those are the cornerstones of your career. That and a telling lack of any sense of humor. Think about it -- when have you ever seen Demi be anything but dead serious in a movie? Then why is it I keep laughing so hard at her whenever I watch one of her movies?

If not for Demi, STRIPTEASE could have been a good, fun movie. If they'd cast someone who could play the character for laughs to fit in with the others, it might have worked. Instead, painful steps are taken to make Demi into the single parent martyr of the strip industry. Before the dust has settled on the opening credits, Demi has already been screwed over by the male power establishment, as a bastard judge awards custody of her 7-year-old daughter to her husband (Robert "T-1000" Patrick), a redneck scam artist who makes a living stealing wheelchairs.

Demi has to take solace in her dancing, as we see in at least six stripteases, only three of which she shows brief glimpses of each $6.25 million breast. She dances to more Annie Lennox songs than I knew existed, but I do have to give her props for doing a striptease to Prince's "If I Was Your Girlfriend," making it an even trilogy of Prince-teases in 1995 and 1996, from "Erotic City" in GIRL 6 to "319" in SHOWGIRLS (which I never saw, by the way, Mom). Actually, we see more of the other dancers' skin than Demi's, especially silicone- enhanced snake dancer Pandora Peaks.

The plot is more wacky and clever than Demi deserves. It involves a Demi-obsessed fan (William Hill) who tries to help her get custody back by blackmailing perverted Congressman Burt Reynolds (in his lamest hairpiece yet) with pictures of him attacking one of the strip club customers to protect his "angel," who of course turns out to be Demi. After Hill turns up dead, cop Armand Assante shows up to ask questions and investigate. It turns into a sex farce that could have been a decent comeback for Reynolds had anyone gone to see this movie.

And I must give the Person Who Almost Saved This Movie award to Ving Rhames, who made me laugh every single time he turned up in STRIPTEASE . Playing a comic version of his toughass Marsellus Wallace character from PULP FICTION, Ving is the strip club bouncer and father figure to the dancers. Pure muscle at first appearance, he is more clever, literate and sarcastic than everyone else in the movie. Where Demi is too serious and Reynolds too wacky, Ving invigorates the movie with the same biting wit and satire Hiaasen intended for all the characters. Right now, I'd kill to see him in a decent comedy. One word of advice to anyone planning to adapt and film a Carl Hiaasen novel -- lock Demi up and pay Ving the $12.5 million.

Copyright 1996 Andrew Hicks

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