- Jul 6, 2003
Showgirls: V.I.P. Edition
Film Length: 131 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16x9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)
Subtitles: English, French and Spanish
Audio: English - Dolby Digital 5.1; French and Spanish – Stereo Surround
July 27th, 2004
Given that director Paul Verhoeven and writer Joe Eszterhas worked together to create Basic Instinct, and that Verhoeven helmed entertaining flicks like Robocop and Total Recall, it is almost inconceivable for me to believe that these talented individuals, or anyone else for that matter, would be capable of creating the empty shell of a film that is Showgirls.
The script probably always sucked, as even Madonna (Swept Away) passed on it, but I think the wheels really came of the wagon the instant that Elizabeth Berkley (Saved By the Bell) was cast in the lead role of Nomi Malone. Yes, she is a fairly pretty and nubile young woman, but she cannot act at all, and definitely does not radiate the sexuality that a role like this demands. Her continual over-emoting during the film’s expository scenes is mildly amusing at first, but by the end of the film, I was simply numb. Thus, the $64,000 question is: Why the hell was someone with no feature length film experience, and who was just plain wrong for the role, chosen to star in an expensive, controversial film like this? I, for one, cannot think of a reasonable answer, so perhaps it is time to move on…
As the film opens up, Nomi (a young woman with no past or family to speak of) is hitchhiking towards Las Vegas, Nevada, to take a stab at achieving fame and fortune as a showgirl. Once she arrives in Sin City, however, she gets a taste of reality when her possessions and cash are stolen away. Fortunately for Nomi though, a local named Molly Abrams (Gina Ravera), who just happens to work in the wardrobe department of a show at the Stardust, takes pity on her and the two become fast friends.
To be more specific, Molly invites Nomi to move into her mobile home in a trailer park, which puts a roof over her head, but she is still faced with the difficult challenge of breaking into the Vegas show scene. To make ends meet in the interim, Nomi lands a gig as a stripper at the popular Cheetah Club, run by Al Torres (Robert Davi).
Shortly thereafter, Nomi has a little run-in with Cristal Connors (Gina Gershon), the gorgeous bisexual star of the “Goddess” stage show at the Stardust hotel and casino. Little does Nomi know that this would be her big break, as Cristal becomes intrigued by Nomi, and takes her boyfriend – and Stardust hotel executive - Zack Carey (Kyle MacLachlan) to the Cheetah and buys him a way over-the-top lap dance from Nomi, who doesn’t like Cristal, but is pressured into doing the deed from her boss.
In no time flat, Nomi is recruited for the Stardust’s “Goddess” show, and makes it into the chorus line. As the story continues, and Nomi becomes more ambitious, the movie becomes a catfight between Cristal and Nomi for position within the production, which Nomi wins by introducing Cristal to a flight of stairs. But will Nomi find life at the top to be as exciting and trouble-free as she had expected it to be?
That is a rough outline of the plot, which doesn’t sound quite so bad – perhaps an updated version of All About Eve, which chronicles a woman’s meteoric rise to stardom when the star of a show breaks her leg. The problem (for me) is that Showgirls takes everything to the absolute extreme. For instance, the film portrays everyone associated with Las Vegas stage productions as either morally bankrupt, corrupt, unscrupulous, or addicted to narcotics. And in that way, Showgirls is a seedy Vegas revue personified – tasteless, gaudy, and existing chiefly to expose the female form.
The real tragedy is that Showgirls probably could have been so much more than what it ultimately became. With a different approach, it might have been a genuinely interesting expose on the ladies that search for success in Vegas’ glitzy shows. Unfortunately, even with the freedom to deliver an NC-17 film, the filmmakers were not able to deliver anything more than an unimaginative and very expensive soap opera. In all honesty, despite the first-class production, the plot is extremely juvenile and the dialogue is downright banal.
Since I already touched on Elizabeth Berkley’s cringe-inducing performance a little bit, I’ll forge ahead by giving you a brief overview of the supporting players’ performances. To begin with, Paul Verhoeven and Joe Eszterhas lob the role of ice-cold bitch at Gina Gershon, and she doesn’t quite knock it out of the park the way she should have. I really like Gina Gershon, but she overdoes it in Showgirls, trying to make almost every line she is given a zinger that hits like a ton of bricks. Her on-screen boyfriend Kyle MacLachlan, also a fine actor, is not his usual self either. Here, he is downright lifeless as the entertainment director at the Stardust. Sadly, the remainder of the supporting cast takes a cue from him, turning in performances that are uniformly uninspired and forgettable.
I remember reading somewhere that Showgirls was Paul Verhoeven’s attempt to create serious “adult-oriented” entertainment that would not disgust the audience. After considering that statement, I believe he has failed utterly. I have seen this film a couple of times since its release, and my opinion of it has never changed - quite simply, it has always failed to entertain me on any level!
Moreover, aside from featuring a wealth of topless women (and a few nude ones), this film is not what I would consider the least bit erotic. Indeed, after the first twenty minutes or so, the nudity almost becomes passé, and the sex scenes are definitely not as risqué as one would expect from an NC-17 film. For this, and all of the other reasons I have already given, I think this sorry excuse for a stage show should be moved from the main stage to Wednesday evenings in the lounge!
P.S. - I am painfully aware (some of my pals LOVE it) of the fact that Showgirls does enjoy a certain level of popularity as a “cult classic”. The mere existence of this nicely appointed V.I.P. Edition of the film is evidence of that status, but for the life of me, I cannot figure out what it is that draws people to this film. Indeed, for me, it falls well short of the “so bad that it is entertaining category”. Of course, I encourage people who feel differently to post to this thread! What is it that folks like me don’t get about this film?
SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
MGM has gone back to the drawing board with Showgirls, and come up with a brand new, anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) transfer that looks as perky as the breasts of Elizabeth Berkley and Gina Gershon! To begin with, colors are vibrant in appearance, with the neon lights of Vegas, and the gaudy showgirl costumes and make-up almost popping off the screen, with only the slightest hints of smearing or chroma noise. Flesh tones also looked quite natural, with subtle gradations between the skin tones of the lovelies in the film being readily apparent.
Edge enhancement and digital compression artifacts are also not a problem, and black levels remain rock solid throughout the feature. In addition to allowing the information in the shadows to come to the surface, this helps create a slick, film-like image with tangible depth and dimension to it. Fine detail is also quite impressive, giving the viewer a greater appreciation for the film’s sets and costumes.
I will be honest, I did not have the previous non-anamorphic DVD on hand to compare this to, but I have to imagine that the visual overhaul given to Showgirls offers a large enough improvement in image quality for fans to justify an upgrade. It really does look fantastic!
WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
Presented in Dolby Digital (5.1), Showgirls’ soundtrack turns out to be a surprisingly immersive experience. Specifically, frequency response is smooth throughout the audible spectrum, the soundstage is spacious, and music and dialogue both exhibit impressive fidelity. In particular, characters’ speech sounds full and rich, with no hissing or sibilance to detract from its presentation.
The surround channels are also used quite aggressively, especially during the “Goddess” dance sequences and the “Cheetah’s” scenes, which place the listener smack in the middle of the audience. The “Goddess” sequences also put the .1 channel to good use, adding quite a bit of punch to the volcanic eruptions that precede Cristal’s (and later Nomi’s) grand entrance to the Stardust stage.
Overall, this is a very well balanced, aggressive mix that should leave fans of this cult classic with very little to gripe about!
”The Greatest Movie Ever Made” Audio / Video Commentary
The commentary for this preposterously named feature-length audio track is done by “Showgirls expert” David Schmader, who is insightful and funny – when he chooses to speak. That Schmader does not talk more is disappointing, because he obviously knows a lot about Paul Verhoeven’s much-maligned film, and has a lot to say about why it has become a cult hit on video. Like a lot of DVD commentaries, the amount of silence can make it a tough listen, but fans will definitely want to give it a listen.
In addition, during the “Cheetah’s Club” scene, viewers can opt to watch a video commentary for that scene by the Scores girls. Aside from critiquing Nomi’s routine, they really don’t have much to offer though…
As is the case with almost every other “Trivia Track”, pop-up boxes will appear throughout the feature to disseminate production information and other minutia to viewers. In this case, however, the tongue-in-cheek information provided is generally unrelated to the film and only marginally interesting. Here is a brief sampling of what to expect:
--- The success rate (in %) of single women trying to hitch a ride.
--- A variety of different references to the “Saved By The Bell” television series.
--- The amount of money Japanese tourists pour into the Vegas economy each year.
--- Disturbing statistics about how many strippers get followed home or stalked.
--- The term “pimpmobile” is now an official English word!
As you can see, there are all sorts of compelling reasons to watch this trivia track! OK, I was just kidding…there really aren’t many “compelling” reasons, but there are enough amusing pop-ups to make this trivia track mildly interesting, especially when watched in concert with the audio commentary.
Lap Dance Tutorial Featuring the World-Famous Girls of Scores
Over the course of five minutes, a few of the Scores dancers take viewers through the ten steps of performing lap dances that will “leave them wanting more”. In the event you were wondering, there is some footage of the Scores girls dancing topless, but I really did not think they were that great to look at. Although this short featurette fits in well with the theme of the film, it is far less exciting than it might sound.
This featurette contains a script-to-film comparison of four scenes from the film, via behind-the-scenes footage of Verhoeven directing his stars, crude sketches, and scribbled on scripts. The scenes are:
Scene 7/8 – (3 Minutes) Nomi loses her money to a one-armed bandit, and nearly gets clipped by a car.
Scene 19 – (2 ½ Minutes) Nomi getting her groove on at The Crave Club, and causing a brawl.
Scene 30 – (3 ½ Minutes) Nomi doing a striptease routine at Cheetah’s.
Scene 43 – (2 Minutes) Nomi and another exotic dancer engaging in a racy striptease routine.
Included in the box set is a poster of a topless Elizabeth Berkley, a blindfold, and two small “pasties”. Imagine a more risqué pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey involving drinks, and you’ve got the idea!
Showgirls Shot Glasses
For use with non-alcoholic beverages (yeah right), MGM has included two shot glasses featuring the new Showgirls logo, which are for use with the drinking games that come with this set, or just for drinking period!
Showgirls Playing Cards
Also included in the set is a deck of collectible playing cards, which are adorned by the new Showgirls logo.
There are four photo cards included, which have recommended drinking/clothing removal games on the back. If you are feeling a little naughty, or want to get plastered, you can use the rest of the items to play the following games:
--- “Sip or Strip”
--- “Showgirls A to Z”
--- “Bad Tipper”
--- “Champagne Room”
Theatrical Trailer and Promotional Materials
The two-minute theatrical trailer for Showgirls is included, as are:
--- An “MGM Means Great Movies” Promo
--- A Great Escape: Collector’s Edition Promo
--- A The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Collector’s Edition Promo
(on a five-point scale)
Video: :star: :star: :star: :star:
Audio: :star: :star: :star: :star:
Extras: :star: :star: :star:
Overall: :star: :star: :star:
THE LAST WORD
I do realize that Showgirls is somewhat of a cult classic, and I would certainly not presume to judge anyone’s opinion of any movie – all I can tell you is that I think that this movie is horrible! It is really hard for me to believe that this director, cast, and crew could generate a product this awful (outside of Elizabeth Berkley, there is some talent here)!
And while I do applaud Ms. Berkley’s brave attempt take her career in a different direction, her performance in Showgirls was incredibly bad. Indeed, at times, it appeared as though she had no clue what she was doing within the context of a particular scene. It certainly doesn’t help that the story and dialogue are also just as lame as that found in most pornographic films. I will admit, there can be a certain amount of pleasure to be derived from watching a film this bad, and wondering how it got to be that way, but this film has never entertained me, and I really cannot see any other reason than that to watch this turkey!
The V.I.P box set that Showgirls has been packaged in is also somewhat of a mystery to me, as it seems MGM is unsure of what demographic they are marketing it to. The new transfer is great, the audio track is boisterous and well mixed, the physical attributes of the box are appealing, and I liked the games, shot glasses, and playing cards. The DVD extras, however, are slightly disappointing. In all honesty, the lap dance featurette and “Showgirls Diary” are quite dull, and the commentary tracks also did not work for me. The worst of the two was by far the short video commentary by the Scores girls, but David Schmader’s campy, comedy-infused commentary is also filled with too many dead spots.
Worst of all, there is no participation whatsoever from Paul Verhoeven, Elizabeth Berkley, Kyle MacLachlan, or Gina Gershon. Your opinion may vary, of course, but I think that is inexcusable! It sure would have been really nice to hear their reflections on Showgirls after the passage of several years, especially to the film being dubbed one of the worst of all time.
In closing, I have to say that I like the effort and creativity that MGM displayed in putting a box set for this truly awful film together, but I can’t help but feel like the Showgirls: V.I.P. Edition is going to be met with a pretty lukewarm reaction. It sure seems like the filmmakers and stars want to forget about it!