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The tagline of the trailer for Paul Verhoeven's Showgirls implores us to leave our “inhibitions at the door." But even if we do so as I attempted while viewing MGM/UA's cheesy cult hit for the first time to coincide with the movie's fifteen year anniversary, that doesn't guarantee that the movie will deliver something that seduces us with no-children-under-seventeen invention and maturity.
As filled with excess as the city of Las Vegas itself where screenwriter Joe Eszterhas lays its scene, Showgirls doesn't titillate or dazzle with the glitter and gold of the nightlife on the Vegas strip as it does drown us with its sleazy ambition, bogging down the trashy stripper epic with delusions of All About Eve meets Flashdance grandeur.
From laughably bad dialogue to one-dimensional characters who don't earn any of our sympathy 99% of the time, the film is further hindered by the fact that Eszterhas' lazy creations are brought to life either with sleepwalking boredom as in the case of Kyle MacLachlan or at the other end of the spectrum, with manically bad enthusiasm, forced facial expressions and emphatic gestures embodied by our lead Elizabeth Berkley.
The Gigli of its era, Showgirls boasts lavish production numbers in this story of a Vegas newcomer who moves from the stripper pole to the chorus line of a hotel's headlining act. But it's hard to care that much about this spin on A Star is Born when Berkley and her cast-mates are forced to go through the motions of such painfully exaggerated acrobatic strip dances that it loses its momentum and spirals out of control in a violently aggressive and decidedly unsexy depiction of vulgar sexuality.
And between the film's dubious coincidences and the complete lack of imagination regarding how to turn on its audience enough that we feel invested in more than just the male-targeted feast of flesh on parade that you wonder if Verhoeven was even on set at all or some of the photographers from Penthouse, Hustler and Playboy had been brought in to call the shots.
A horrific example of male Hollywood ego, the quest for the almighty bang for the buck and Vegas excessive gluttony run amok, no matter how much it dresses itself up in bonus features or its visibly impressive transfer to high definition, this Showgirl will always feel like nothing more than a cheap dive bar stripper.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.