Showgirls (1995) — The day that exciting nudity died

“I used to love Doggy Chow, too!”

Kaleb’s rating: I’ve seen sexier Driver’s Ed videos.

Kaleb’s review: When one joins Mutant Reviewers, the prestige inherent thereto comes with a certain responsibility: a tacit agreement to produce a certain number of reviews within a given time frame. I have reneged on this agreement, and now must pay with blood and tears.  I’m telling you this so that you’ll understand that, while it’s certainly my fault that I’m watching Showgirls, it wasn’t my choice. It’s my punishment.

So — and here I’m speaking mainly to relative and close friends, because I’m apparently acerbic and mildly abusive to those closest to me — if any of you are waving hankies and stumbling to your fainting couches and whimpering forlornly about what a nice boy I used to be, chill. If it bothers you that much, your opinion of me probably needed to be dropped a couple of notches anyway. And for what it’s worth, I’ve already cast the DVD back into the black nothingness that spawned it — briefly considering giving it its own bag so as not to offend my other trash — and have burned the clothes I wore while viewing, along with the top layer of my skin.

Now that that’s out of the way, on to the review.

Back when Justin first donned his cleavage-baring chainmail and declared that he had chosen Showgirls as the penance for my deal-bust, the first thought that entered my mind was what a light punishment I was getting. Okay, so actually the first thought that entered my mind was “Crap, I’m gonna have some ‘splainin’ to do,” but the second thought was, “Arrogant fool! I eat terrible movies for breakfast! And breasts don’t frighten me!”

So, as it turns out, Justin is actually quite wise. Aaaaand cruel.

During the intervening days, as I did research while awaiting the DVD’s arrival (this was because I desperately wanted to avoid any sort of human interaction during the acquisition process, so I found it online for four bucks and am cripplingly ashamed of spending even that much), I became increasingly concerned that I might be getting more than I bargained for. When it finally arrived, I didn’t do anything with it for about two days. Didn’t even take it out of the cellophane, for fear that it would foul the air. And I worried that it might render my external combo drive unusable.

But, I got over it, rationalizing that a) I was going to have to review it eventually or face dismissal, b) despite no intentions of viewing it of my own free will, I couldn’t help but admit to a tiny flake of morbid curiosity, likely born of all the hubbub surrounding its release (as I recall, it was that week’s herald of the Apocalypse), and c) It can’t be all that bad, can it?

The answer to that last? Yes, si, oui, ja, da, hai, and affirmatives in alien languages we don’t know about yet. It can be that bad and worse. I set my expectations as low as they could go, and this movie totally underblew them away.

And please understand, when I say “bad” I don’t mean in terms of objectionable content — if you could strip (tee hee!) away all of the obscenities and nudity and whatnot, that wouldn’t really change anything. You wouldn’t find compelling characters or an interesting story or sobering morals hiding underneath, but rather, squat. Bupkis. Void. The opposite of things. It isn’t like the Godfather movies, which purportedly aren’t for the kiddies but are allegedly super-awesome (haven’t seen them; probably won’t), or the most recent Rambo film, which, if you can shoulder through its naughty words and incredibly graphic violence, will reward you with some sweet incredibly graphic violence. No, it’s simply absolute tripe; top to bottom, front to back, thoroughly indefensible.

Which in a roundabout way, reminds me of a theory I would like to posit as to the reason for its creation. Showgirls was created because its producers hate all living things and want existence to end. This is a solid theory, and is certainly supported by the evidence. However, I have an alternative, which almost, almost puts a positive spin on the whole thing. Or rather, might, if I believed for one moment that it was actually true and wasn’t just throwing it out for fun.

I submit to you that Showgirls was devised as a trap, a Malay man-catcher designed specifically for those sunken-chested, tiny-bearded sorts* who are always trumpeting about the hypocrisy and brokenness of the MPAA, inexorably drawn to a mainstream release carrying the hallowed and cyborg-designation-like NC-17 rating, crowing about how “daring” that is and how it must have story elements too weighty and intelligent for the sheltered philistines, and then SURPRISE! It’s crap.

Like I said, if it were true, that would be wonderful, and my disposition toward the film’s creators would warm all the way up to mild hostility. But, it isn’t, and my offer to headbutt each and every person involved with this film in any way — from the director all the way down to the guy who changes his diaper — stands.

Matters aren’t helped by the fact that the cast seems custom-crafted to feature exactly no one I like. Elizabeth Berkley ne’er haunted my dreams as Bayside High’s sanctimonious ball-stomper, and the jump to a larger screen and different brand of repellent has not improved the situation. I couldn’t name you one other thing Kyle McLachlan has been in. And Gina Gershon…

…gets her own paragraph. Rest assured, though, that as I attempt for my own peace of mind to demystify exactly what her appeal is, I will refrain from base and classless remarks about her bee-stung beef-lips. Or her grill like a ’39 Plymouth. Or the fact that when she smiles it looks like Turbo Teen, were he to get stuck halfway through the facial portion of his transformation.

Additional bonus annoyance is granted by the fact that the film’s story — if it even qualifies to be called such — relies too heavily on a form of plot architecture I like to call “Implausible Misery:” the idea that, yes, life sucks, but does it suck enough? It’s kind of like an extra-mean, probability-defying form of Murphy’s Law. I’ll give you an illustration: Were it not for the fact that I’m fat and lazy and I don’t want to, I’d bet you that I could traverse Vegas on foot, and arrive at the far end alive and unraped.

Not in the Showgirls world, though. Not only would I be shot a dozen times before I took the first step, I would also have the bullets immediately and fangoriously removed by lead-eating gremlins. Then I would drag my ravaged carcass to a nearby ambulance, only to find that it had been hijacked by a roving sex gang that only targets half-eaten people.

Which reminds me of another thing I don’t like, and that I’m bad at logical segues. Seeing as how Showgirls flaunts itself as a movie that’s supposed to blow your mind or shock your pants off or whatever, it has to constantly and predictably get all up in your face about how hard it thinks it is. I’m reminded in particular of the many instances of cocaine use, and how it felt like every snort should be accompanied by either a narrating cartoon character (I nominate Mr. DNA from Jurassic Park) popping up and saying “They’re using cocaine, because that’s debauchery!” or Mr. Verhoeven himself poking his buttable little head out of the screen, and growling to the viewer, all intimidating-like, “Did you see that, man? Cocaine. This movie is badass. You’d better watch your step, or it will cut you.”

Going in, I had no idea what to expect in terms of an ending. But based on the film’s fantastically-uninspiring premise-hooker/stripper aspires to be pretentiously-classy, high-ranking hooker/stripper (showgirls are evidently the Green Berets of the skin industry) — and its billing as an expose on the dark side of Vegas (the seedy underbelly hidden beneath the pleasing facade of self-destruction and failure that the city presents to the common tourist) led me to predict either a heroin overdose, or some more deliberate form of suicide on the part of the lead.

What I didn’t know was that, by about a third of the way through, I would be praying for such an event, and considering looking into it for myself. Maybe this sounds rough, but it wouldn’t were I fluent in the angel tongue necessary to properly convey to you what a spectacular waste of space Berkley’s character is. In all fairness, though, it isn’t just her. Among the entire cast, there is maybe one character who’s actually likable, and a couple more who sort of wander near likability without actually getting close enough to give it chlamydia, but the rest seem to exist solely to remind us that deranged snipers never target the right people.

However, in stark contrast to everything I’ve said so far, I think Showgirls should be required viewing in schools and youth groups across the nation. How can I say such a thing? Look directly below the space between this paragraph and the next for the answer!

Back when it was first released, I would’ve been fourteen, which, as I recall, was the age at which every concerned adult within a twenty mile radius began hammering into my skull that sins of a sexual nature were positively the worst you could do, and that if I was having trouble with temptation, I should consider murdering the elderly as a more acceptable outlet. That said, I firmly believe from the bottom of my pancreas, that if I had snuck out and watched Showgirls upon its initial release, I would be in a monastery today. And that would differ greatly from my actual life, in that I would be wearing a robe.

That said, the way I figure it, we just need to force all of the unwitting teens that we can to watch this film, let them run with the assumption that all sex is as revolting as that portrayed therein, and boom: teenage promiscuity solved. Of course, one possible side effect would be the extinction of the entire human race, but really, who’s going to miss it?

To Justin, the rest of the crew, the readers, and the millions of teeny tiny little children who look up to me as a role model, I’m sorry. Great hairy armpits of Odin, am I ever sorry. And now that I know the sort of punishment that awaits, you can lay money (Vegas pun! Har!) that I won’t fall behind again.

* Okay, so I tend to agree with them on many points. That doesn’t make them cease to be annoying hippies.

Didja notice?

  • Does she pull out a knife for just any reason?
  • Girls like to fight, save each other’s lives, and then hug within twenty seconds of meeting each other
  • Nudity by minute 9
  • Nomi is a whiny brat with the spirit of a temper tantrum-throwing three-year-old — and I think that’s all the notes the actress was given to work with
  • Nomi does spirit fingers!
  • Nomi knees a guy for no reason in the dance club, then smiles all proud-like as everyone fights because of her. She’s spiffy.
  • That guy’s face ordered the extra craggy value meal
  • Nomi’s a bit of wriggler during sex
  • Ice cubes are threatening… for some reason…
  • Checking for her period. Thank you, Showgirls. I’m off sex forever.
  • So she sees 10 seconds of a routine, and can suddenly do three minutes of it?
  • Monkeys in dresses! A metaphor for the movie AND its most enjoyable part!
  • Ah, yet another pleasant catfight.
  • The waiter hands the girls the menu and says “enjoy”… huh? Enjoy eating the menu?
  • The girls bonding over eating dog food
  • The mean girl saying the “F” word to the little kids, and having the little kids fake crying about it
  • “It’s her knee”… gee, after squeezing it and hearing her shriek in pain, do you think it’s her knee? Showgirls make great doctors.
  • Naked Kyle butt! Nooo!
  • The cover image for this movie is a remake of a famous photograph by Slovak photographer Tono Stano.
  • Elizabeth Berkley spends approximately 20 minutes, or 1/6 of the entire film, completely nude.
  • Remember kids; not ratting out your backstabbing co-worker will pay dividends when it’s your turn to backstab.
  • Is she wearing cherry nipple-gloss?

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