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Starring Demi Moore, Ving Rhames, Armand Assante, Robert Patrick, and Burt Reynolds
Directed by Andrew Bergman

"Strip": The process of removing one's clothes. Sometimes a process which can be used to seduce, entice or titillate. Sometimes a process in which clothing is removed just because it has to be.

"Tease": The act of making a person think he/she is going to get more than they actually are going to.

Striptease: A motion picture whose implied promise, a sexy comedy with a naked Demi Moore, and other women in various states of undress, is better summed up by the second definition above, and the second part of the first.

As always, Cranky makes no comparison with the source material, in this case the novel by Carl Hiaasen.

The night it opened, actor Ving Rhames made the David Letterman audience stand up and shout "Striptease is not no damn Showgirls" at the top of their lungs. Well, it isn't. It's worse. Showgirls was the utmost in bad acting on top of a bad script. Striptease is well acted on top of a script that has no idea what it wants the movie to be.

Erin Grant (Demi Moore) is a beautiful young woman who has lost custody of her 7-year-old daughter to a pill-popping, wheelchair-stealing, piece of white trash ex-husband. The convoluted reasoning is that she is unemployed and thus cannot care for the kid. She is unemployed because White Trash was an informant for the vice squad. His unseemly lifestyle got Erin's security clearance and job as a secretary for the FBI nixed.

To raise the fifteen grand for her legal appeal, Erin takes a job as a stripper at a very upscale club called the "Eager Beaver." The name is an oxymoron. The women neither lap-dance nor hook; they don't even touch the clientele. Those in the audience who try to do anything more than slip a twenty dollar bill into a garter are summarily removed by the bouncer, Shad (Ving Rhames), who spends his time trying to dream up legal lawsuit scams against big corporations and thus get out of the sleazy business.

Thing is, Erin is a pretty damned good stripper. Working the runway to the pounding beat of songs by Annie Lennox, she has developed a coterie of fans, including a nerd named Jerry and a truly warped Congressman named David Dilbeck (Burt Reynolds). One gets murdered. The other does unspeakable things with clothes-dryer lint and the rest of the story pushes absurdity to the limit by including the Cuban Mafia, sugar price supports, crooked lawyers, and a straight-arrow cop (Armand Assante) in the mix.

It's all terribly absurd. Emphasis on terrible. And that's a disappointment because writer/director Andrew Bergman has more than once shown his ability to take absurd stories and make them hysterically funny. Honeymoon in Vegas and The Freshman come to mind. But in Striptease, absurd is replaced by bizarre, and bizarre just ain't funny. It could have been a gritty drama, laced with sex and murder. It could have been a sex farce, with murder and cover-up motivating more and more sex jokes. It could have been funny, but it is so only when Shad the Bouncer dryly comments on the actions at hand. He steals the show.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for Striptease, he would have paid . . .


For Ving Rhames' performance.

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