Courtesy photo

Written & directed by Andrew Bergman

Starring Demi Moore, Burt Reynolds, Ving Rhames, Rumer Willis

This film is #1 on the Worst of 1996 list.

Opened: June 28, 1996 | Rated: R

If you thought "Striptease" couldn't possibly be any worse than "Showgirls," think again.

After many months of re-shoots and post-production fiddling, done in a desperate attempt to distinguish this Demi Moore vehicle from it's abysmal predecessor, "Striptease" is an even bigger mess than that Joe Eszterhas disaster from last year. At least "Showgirls" was good for a laugh, albeit unintentionally.

"Striptease" opens with Moore in court battling with a criminal ex-husband (Robert Patrick, "Terminator 2") for custody of their 7-year-old daughter (Demi's real kid, Rumor. Poor thing.).

She begs, she pleads, she cries crocodile tears, and with the emotionless delivery of her first line of dialogue, it becomes painfully clear that this movie is in deep trouble.

Because she is unemployed she is denied custody by the misogynistic judge, and to pay for an appeal she takes a job dancing nude at the Eager Beaver, an allegedly upscale strip joint.

Recently fired from the FBI (no reason given), one would think her qualified to do something besides shaking her caboose, but although she hates her job she spends her days practicing her act at home instead of updating her resume and pounding the pavement. Although she feels degraded working as a stripper, she dances under her real name. Although she is supposedly intelligent, she confides in her stalker, a Eager Beaver regular.

Writer-director Andrew Bergman ("Honeymoon In Vegas") simply must have been asleep at the wheel as nothing much happens for the next hour short of Moore complaining to her boss that the nudie bar's napkin logo is offensive to women. Oh, and she sneaks into a muddy trailer park to snatch her daughter back, in the ideal outfit for such a clandestine operation -- three-inch heels and a miniskirt.

Then one night a slimy conservative congressman, played by Burt Reynolds, comes into the club and before long Moore is seducing him into influencing the judge in her court case.

Reynolds sends the movie downhill even faster with a dopey, sexually ambiguous performance -- the logical opposite of what the part called for.

He offers Moore $2,000 for a private performance only weeks before an election, so his Mafioso colleges decide kill her before she inadvertently blows his campaign.

Honestly, I don't know what happens after that because I couldn't take it. I got up and left.

Let me be blunt: In three days of thinking, I cannot remember a movie worse than "Striptease." "Up All Night" on the USA network wouldn't even touch this garbage.

The only reason "Striptease" didn't go straight to video is because Columbia Pictures is desperate to recoup some of the record $12.5 million it paid Moore, and they hope a couple weekends of lecherous men stopping at the multiplex instead of the video store will do the trick.

For those willing to shell out $7 purely for the thrill of seeing Demi Moore in her birthday suit, rent "About Last Night..." instead. There is nothing remotely attractive about her here. Her augmented breasts look like door knobs, her skin has a tanned leather-like quality, and she can't pole-dance to save her life -- she is consistently upstaged by the real strippers hired as extras.

"Striptease" does have one saving grace: Ving Rhames, the actor destined to be remembered as Marsalis in "Pulp Fiction," plays a bouncer at the Eager Beaver and he runs away with every scene he's in. He seems to be the only actor who knows it's a rotten picture, and he goes to town with it, tongue firmly in cheek.

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