The naked ladies are the least interesting part of "Striptease," based on the Carl Hiaasen novel. Although the movie is a bit too long, oddball humor and a likable cast keep it entertaining.
Demi Moore stars as Erin Grant, who takes a job stripping at the Eager Beaver in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., so she can earn enough money to win a child custody case against her loser ex-husband, Darrell (Robert Patrick, probably best known as the mighty morphin' Terminator in "Terminator 2"). His criminal record got her fired from her job as a secretary with the FBI, and now he's using their daughter (Rumer Willis, Moore's real daughter) to help steal wheelchairs.
At the club, where Erin points out to the owner that the Eager Beaver logo is demeaning both to women and to beavers, she finds a devoted following. Among her fans is the nerdy Jerry (William Hill), who is dedicated to helping her win her custody case by blackmailing a fellow patron, sleazy Congressman David Dilbeck (Burt Reynolds), into influencing the judge. But it's not that simple; Dilbeck, who has a less virtuous interest in Erin, is backed by a ruthless sugar-cane-growing cartel, and Jerry turns up dead.
The murder draws in a police investigator (Armand Assante), who also wants to help Erin. And her best supporter is probably club bodyguard Shad, played delightfully by Ving Rhames (chief gangsta in "Pulp Fiction"), who steals the show from everyone with his deadpan threats.
Moore, who usually plays some version of herself, is sympathetic and determined as Erin, and she has a nice on-screen rapport with her daughter. Even better is Reynolds, whose drunken politician is portrayed with daffy, slimy, dyed-blond enthusiasm. He's up for re-election, and he's up to no good.
Yes, the plot is complicated. And that's why the movie is most fun when Erin tries to sort out the zany mess she's in. The striptease numbers at the club are, well, kind of boring, and they don't do much to advance the plot. If you're going to this movie for its sexy quotient, you may be disappointed -- and, we should point out, there is no sex, either, although there are plenty of firm breasts sculpted by the finest doctors in Hollywood. Director Andrew Bergman ("Honeymoon in Vegas") has a deft comic sensibility, but less skin and more speed would have served him better.
Starring Demi Moore, Ving Rhames and Burt reynolds
Directed by Andrew Bergman
Released by Castle Rock Rated R (nudity, language, dead bodies)
Sun score: ** 1/2
Pub Date: 6/28/96