If you've ever read a Carl Hiaasen book you know what kind of a wacky ride you're in for. Like other authors who hail from the Sunshine State, Hiaasen populates his books with outlandish, over-the-top characters who always have one or two big quirks. Like the works of Tim Dorsey and Dave Barry, Hiaasen's books feature a plethora of Floridian deviants who somehow all come together in the end in an often hilarious climax. 'Striptease' gets some of Hiaasen's humor right, but fails in other aspects.
I always thought this movie got a bad shake because of its title. It did much better overseas than it did domestically. I remember when it came out most people thought it was trying to piggy-back on 'Showgirls' from the previous year. I remember hearing people discuss it as, "Another stripper movie," when that really couldn't be further from the truth. (Although to be fair the movie lingers far too long on stripping scenes that don't have anything to do with the story at all.)
Erin Grant (Demi Moore) has just lost her daughter during a wacky custody battle with her felonious ex-husband. Her daughter (a very young Rumer Willis) is sent to live with her father (Robert Patrick). He steals wheelchairs for a living. Erin has been fired from the FBI as a secretary because of her husband's criminal past and now she's found a job stripping at the Eager Beaver to pay her rent. She wants desperately to win back her daughter.
No Hiaasen story would be complete without a slew of nutty ancillary characters, which 'Striptease' has by the boatloads. Congressman David Dilbeck (Burt Reynolds) is a sleazy politician who enjoys whores and covering himself head to toe in Vaseline (no, really). Lt. Al Garcia (Armand Assante) fills the role of the stalwart and helpful cop that populates many of Hiaasen's novels. Malcolm Moldovsky (Paul Guilfoyle) is the puppet master pulling the strings behind Dilbeck's campaign. He'll do anything to win. Alan Mordecai (Stuart Pankin), a blood-sucking lawyer who never finds a case too reprehensible to take on. Finally, there's the bouncer with a heart of gold, Shad (Ving Rhames). Rhames is probably my favorite part of 'Striptease'. Imagine the intimidation factor of Marcellus Wallace except with a wicked sense of humor and a penchant for trying to scam big businesses with erroneous lawsuits.
Every one of these characters is mad. Not angry, but crazy. That's just how a Hiaasen story should be. Erin witnesses Congressman Dilbeck conk a strip club patron on the head with a bottle during one of her dances. Dilbeck becomes infatuated with Erin all the while people conspire around her to blackmail the congressman for all he's worth. So many people are thrown in the fray that you may find yourself losing track of who's who. I know that I have had trouble keeping people straight whenever I pick up a new Hiaasen novel.
The pure zaniness of the movie captures the wackiness of the book pretty well. Characters ping-pong off each other as the body count mounts. The political landscape portrayed here is eerily similar to the one we're watching play out in front of our eyes during this election year.
'Striptease' is purely plot driven though. Erin is a standard female in distress archetype that never wavers. She's resolute in her goal to get her daughter back and sometimes feels like she belongs in a different movie. All these characters are bonkers, and she hardly cracks a smile during the entire thing. Even when she visits relatives who are, for some strange reason, raising wolves in the backyard. 'Striptease' is a fun Floridian romp if you like Hiaasen's style, but it's nothing more than that.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This release from Warner is emblazoned with "Uncut International Version," meaning that there's probably a few seconds of more bare breasts. I'm not sure exactly what is added in from its theatrical showing, but IMDb notes that this version of the movie has slightly more nudity. The theatrical version clocked in at 115 minutes this cut is 117. The movie comes on a 25GB Blu-ray Disc and is packaged in a standard, eco-friendly Blu-ray keepcase.
Like 'Disclosure' Warner has treated the look of 'Striptease' well and has given it a shiny 1080p transfer which reveals astonishing levels of detail even though we're talking about a 1996 comedy with a predominate soft focus.
For those of you who are looking to purchase 'Striptease' to see Demi Moore in her prime then you'll be happy that this release treats all of her nude moments with clarity. Even in the dark abyss of the Eager Beaver, there's a depth and clarity to the picture. Shadows accentuate Moore's body as she gyrates on stage, crushing never rears its ugly head.
Fine detail shines, totally outdoing the DVD. You can see the tiniest facial details like Moore's flawless skin and...yes... the glistening sheen of Reynolds' body smothered in Vaseline. The bright colors of Florida are on display from the lush greens of the palm trees to the white sand beaches. Grain seems reserved, but adds to a filmic look. I didn't notice any artifacts as far as I could tell. I was surprised because I at least expected some minor artifacting during the dance numbers which feature flashing lights, but there was none. I didn't notice banding, aliasing or any other anomaly that would hamper viewing. There are some soft shots, but overall this is about as good looking as you can make a third-tier catalogue title from the mid-90s look.
'Striptease' has been afforded a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that neither wows nor disappoints. It does exactly what is asked of it and no more. The scenes inside the Eager Beaver feature thumping audio as the dancers dance to their own brands of music. The theme songs for each striptease features well-rounded acoustics which travel to every channel. LFE is heavy and plentiful during songs like "These Dreams (Are Made of These)."
Dialogue is clean and clearly reproduced through the front and center channels. Directionality works smoothly placing characters in the exact area that they need to be when they speak out of frame. I did notice a difference between the volume levels and acoustics of the songs played within the Eager Beaver as compared to the song that Erin plays at her house when she gets ready in the morning. Nothing major, but the mixing of the club songs seemed much more adept at creating an encompassing environment. Ambient sound is soft, but the rears do feature some milling about from other club patrons along with the occasional gunshot.
Like I said, nothing spectacular, but there's nothing wrong with the mix either. It's one of those forgettable audio presentations that is completely fine for watching the movie but you'll not remember one single, memorable thing about it.
It may not get everything right from Hiaasen's novel, there's something to be said for the zany nature that can only exist in one of his novels, but it has its moments and a couple funny performances from Rhames and Reynolds, but otherwise 'Striptease' is a forgettable 90s catalogue title which people will likely only pick up remembering that, "Demi Moore gets naked in this movie, a lot!" It's worth a rental either way.