Time: 114 mins.
Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor (Durning).
SYNOPSIS: The town sheriff fights to keep a historic whorehouse, whose owner is his girlfriend, open when a TV preacher targets it as the Devil's playhouse in an effort to raise his popularity.
BOTTOM LINE: A raucous, silly, musical comedy long on outrageousness and short on plot. It's certainly one of few films to ever take place inside a brothel that's supposed to be amusing and fun. Parton stars as Miss Mona, the sweet and sexy madam of the Chicken Ranch, a 100-year-old Texas institution. Her innate charm and goodness takes the sordidness out of the topic, making the business seem more like a community service than a felony.
That is until a local TV personality, played with fervent, unrelenting gusto by DeLuise, decides to expose the secret of this smalltown Texas institution as a means to further his own celebrity. He doesn't really believe their a blight on the community, he just needs a cause that will ignite the media. Mona's used to fighting her own battles, but decides to let the local sheriff, Ed Earl (Reynolds), her friend and lover, try to handle the situation. Unfortunatly, he lets his feelings for her and anger at her situation get in the way of his better judgement and ends up only adding fuel to the fire.
The simple joy of the film begins to unravel when the story turns from uncomplicated love for hire to convoluted political grandstanding. Granted, without the danger of the brothel's closure, there isn't really anywhere for the plot to go there's only so much silly slap-and-tickle one can take yet the courtroom machinations grind the fun to a stand still. Durning is brilliant as the governor caught between the crusader and the whore, but his troubles aren't what the audience cares about. It's the relationship between Parton and Reynolds that gives the film sizzle and heart and when they're not onscreen the movie flounders.
The musical numbers are lively, imaginative and more than a bit naughty. One has to expect a certain amount of nudity given the film's rating and subject matter, though it's never raunchy or excessive. It's all about fun in this whorehouse. The songs are catchy enough to keep them rolling around in your head for days, especially the ones by Parton and the ladies. They are what makes this film entertaining and one of my guilty cinema pleasures. At least the first hour anyway.