A dark comedy about sleaze, corruption and naughty behavior below the Bible Belt, Striptease doesn’t quite come off. Writer-director Andrew Bergman has good fun sending up the weak morals, outrageous hypocrisy and trashy lifestyles of many of his characters, but his satirical aim is wobbly, the jibes and potshots falling short of their mark more often than not.
Based on Carl Hiaasen’s novel Strip Tease, script jumps right in by showing Erin Grant (Demi Moore) being stripped of custody of her seven-year-old daughter, Angela (Moore’s daughter Rumer Willis) in favor of her lowlife ex, Darrell (Robert Patrick). Erin takes up stripping at the Eager Beaver, a congenial enough club where the girls have good backstage camaraderie and tough black bouncer Shad (Ving Rhames) protects them with vigilance.
Sending everyone’s lives into a different orbit is the arrival of Congressman David Dilbeck (Burt Reynolds), a sex fiend who regularly visits strip joints. Things spin further in crazy and unpredictable directions after Erin kidnaps her daughter from Darrell.
The star looks quite buff, with legs and butt that attest to hours on the Stairmaster and other attributes that are far from demi-class. After a teaser about 45 minutes in, Moore finally does her first full-fledged strip at the hour mark. Moore’s dance routines have a rather overly calculated, too disciplined feel, but the actress otherwise delivers one of her more credible performances.
Rhames slowly develops a vastly amusing character, at first seeming like a gruntingly one-note thug but ultimately emerging as quite a tough-guy wit. Reynold’s exaggerated turn as the shameless politico sort of sums up the pros and cons of the picture.