Watch 52 musicals, one every week, in 2015.
THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS (1982)
Fun fact: I thought The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas was a Western until I was physically holding the DVD case in my hand. Turns out it’s a modern-day tale about the Chicken Ranch, a brothel in Gilbert, Texas that’s definitely illegal but everybody in town is totally cool with it, because, you know, you can bone women for money and that is awesome. When muckraking TV personality Melvin P. Thorpe (Dom DeLuise) threatens to investigate the goings-on (and goings-in) happening at the Ranch, Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd (Burt Reynolds) has to help madam Mona Stangley (Dolly Parton) keep her bangin’ business boomin’. How does it all, uh, go down?
So I’ve gotta say right off the bat that I expected this to be a winky innuendo-stuffed romp full of naughty puns and cheeky slapstick in lieu of actual raunch, but guys, this had titties and humping and a prostitute airing out her much-pounded cooch with a table fan.
Hell yes, you get a GIF.
In terms of structure, it couldn’t be simpler. Our two Will They Won’t They protagonists have a clear-cut adversary trying to shut down something they hold dear and they’re brought closer together through the experience, so fill in the gaps with zany gags on the way to hatching a clever scheme that inevitably saves the sex farm.
“Whaddya think, paint cans on ropes?”
Wait, did I say “inevitably”?
Aww, fuck. Or, lack of fuck, I guess.
Bummer, right? I was honestly shocked that they shut the place down. I guess they had to go with the historically accurate ending or whatever, but dammit, it’s kinda sucky to have the fun times screech to an entirely non-fun halt. A+ for the surprise, I guess, but I kinda wanted more whore shenanigans rather than a sad reminder of how hard it is to pay for sex these days.
This whole cast brought their goddamn A-game. Everybody’s a lovable doof from top billing on down. Burt Reynolds’s Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd is a no-nonsense rough-and-tumble cussin’ dynamo in the public eye, but in the bedroom he’s secretly a goofy little sweetheart.
Picture your local sheriff, pants around ankles, with that dweeby smile.
Dolly Parton is, of course, the most delightful human being in the universe and, yes, is pretty much just playing her charming self as the madam of a whorehouse, ie. the best thing you will ever see in any movie ever. And her chemistry with Burt Reynolds is wonderfully heartwarming.
Also, she has, like, a dozen costume changes.
Dom DeLuise is our nefarious nemesis Melvin P. Thorpe, who speaks of the depravity occurring at the Chicken Ranch with the affectation of a gospel preacher while claiming to be an entirely neutral investigative reporter. His wackiness falls somewhere between “Bond villain” and “Saturday morning cartoon,” but that’s exactly what you need for a flick like this.
Choose a caption: A) “Land sakes!” B) “Well, I never!” C) “Goodness me oh my!”
My absolute favorite character, though, is Jim Nabors as Deputy Fred. He’s the quintessential shy but well-meaning country boy, except, you know, he’s a grown man. If I were the sort to write fan fiction, he is absolutely related to Kenneth from 30 Rock. Also, he’s our narrator, so many of his innocent chicken-fried descriptions of the sucking and fucking happening at the whorehouse are adorably delivered directly to camera.
Deputy Fred should narrate every movie.
Also of note are Robert Mandan as Senator Wingwood delivering a brief but hilarious speech after getting caught with his pants down, Charles Durning as a singing Texas governor that’s barely in the movie but still managed to nab an Oscar nomination, and a shitload of talented dancers, which, hey, that’s the next section.
THE SONGS AND DANCES:
Hooray, a musical with a comfortable amount of songs! Every tune in Whorehouse has a definite country flair to it, but even if that’s not your thing (it isn’t mine), they fit the feel of the movie perfectly. First up is “20 Fans,” which tells us of the need for a fan in every room of the Chicken Ranch to cool off all the humpin’ and pumpin’ in the hot Texas sun. For bonus points, it takes us through the history of the Ranch and changes its musical genre to match each decade. All in all, a great, sexy, informative opening number!
Full of dancing! And the sex!
Further helping with exposition is “A Lil’ Ole Bitty Pissant Country Place,” in which Mona insists that there’s “nothin’ dirty goin’ on” at her Ranch, while also running down the rules for the gals and the johns. It’s catchy and friendly and seriously, whorehouses are the happiest places on Earth, right?
Now is not a good time to remind me that movies aren’t real.
Mona and Ed share a sweet foreplay duet about their affair called “Sneakin’ Around” that’s lovely and sexy and makes me sad that I will never have a romance as wonderful as theirs.
Still not a good time to remind me that movies aren’t real.
Oh, and then Melvin has a theme song for his Watchdog Report that’s kinda funny, but his toe-tappin’ exposé “Texas Has a Whorehouse In It” is ridiculously catchy and fun, especially for how lavish it is despite Melvin claiming his investigation is fair and balanced.
It angers him right down to his coincidentally rock-hard dick!
Hot damn, and then there’s “The Aggie Song,” in which an entire football team sings with joy about how they can’t wait to go a-fuckin’ at the Chicken Ranch. Twenty guys line-dancing shirtless together after hitting the showers? Sorry, Top Gun, if you’re gonna have a “not gay but subtextually totally gay” locker room grab-ass scene, fucking own it.
And when the boys finally arrive? An awesome instrumental group dance with the whores in pretty dresses that eventually come right the hell off.
What’s not to love?
Charles Durning gets his one song as a sneaky politician with “The Sidestep,” which I’m going to guess certain people (probably libertarians) really love, but I dunno, it kinda dragged the pacing down for me. It’s fun, but I could take it or leave it.
You know how politicians are! Share if you agree!
Mona and her employees clear out of the Chicken Ranch while singing “Hard Candy Christmas,” which features all of them pondering what they’ll do with their lives now that they no longer manufacture orgasms. It’s quite the bittersweet little song.
It’s 1982, good luck finding work.
And then, for some reason, Dolly Parton sings her pre-existing country hit “I Will Always Love You,” despite it only kinda sorta fitting the plot? Full disclosure, this song makes me cry every time I hear it because of an ex that was a big Dolly Parton fan; it was so confusingly shoved into this movie that I think I’ve finally broken that habit.
We both know that this song is not what you need.
I THINK THIS LINE’S MOSTLY FILLER:
Good job, Whorehouse; no one lyric struck me as being forced or terrible, but… I don’t exactly get the metaphor behind “Hard Candy Christmas.” Maybe it’s because I’ve never celebrated Christmas and I think hard candy is friggin’ awesome, but I don’t quite understand the sentiment. Leaving your brothel is like only being able to afford candy for Christmas? Be happy that you at least have candy? Is Dolly Parton made of Christmas and candy? Whatever, I needed to pick something and this made me scratch my head for half a second…
“Me, I’ll be just fine and dandy,
Lord, it’s like a hard candy Christmas.
I’m barely gettin’ through tomorrow,
but still I won’t let sorrow bring me way down…”
This was entertaining as hell. I might get shit for this, but The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is my idea of a musical. A simple story, over-the-top performances, a handful of upbeat tunes, and a running time that isn’t three goddamn hours. Plus Dolly Parton and whores! It may not be the best musical, but it’s one of the most fun. Until that part where it gets really sad.