Judge Brett Cullum admires it when the showgirl feels she must go on!
The show is about to begin…again!
The improbable plot for Showgirls 2: Penny's From Heaven finds stripper Penny Slot (Rena Riffel, Showgirls) leaving black boyfriend James (Glenn Plummer, Showgirls) to make her way to Los Angeles to be a dancer on television. Perhaps even more improbably, the film was funded by a Kickstarter campaign that Rena put together, and has no affiliation with anybody on the production team of the original cult classic, which was the brainchild of director Paul Verhoeven and screenwriter Joe Eszterhasz.
Showgirls 2 is as much parody of Showgirls as it is sequel, with minor characters from the first chapter showing up to say lines they delivered back in 1995, including Dewey Weber and Greg Travis. None of the major stars dared to return; Elizabeth Berkley has been seeking redemption through reality television like Dancing with the Stars, and Gina Gershon has been keeping her chops sharp on Lifetime movies such as House of Versace. Nope, this is simply a cheap grab at continuing the legacy, looking like it was shot on home video cameras with barely a thought to the script or what they were trying to do.
Star, writer, producer, and director Rena Riffel looks great, though, and it is fun to watch her squirm and writhe her way through the flick with wild naked abandon. She takes on Marilyn impersonators, nasty ballet dancers, evil porn producers, and the devil himself to make her showgirl dreams come true. It is 145 minutes of bloated mess and excess, complete with terrible dialogue and even champagne dribbling all over exposed chests.
This is the second DVD release of Showgirls 2, with upgraded artwork and extras. Screw the transfer, because this cheap movie was shot mainly on handheld video, so there's not much to mess up. Colors are fine, although garish and overblown most of the time, which is wholly appropriate. Detail is fine though often lacking. Sound seems like it was mainly captured in camera, with plenty of ambient noise mucking things up.
Somehow all of this just adds to the Grade Z atmosphere the movie shoots for. It scores! Bonus features start off with a funny commentary with star director, star, writer, producer Rena Riffel, who reveals everything you need to know about her project. There is a "Lost Footage Reel," which includes some dreamy sequences involving a dwarf not used in the film proper that all look like they were inspired by David Lynch (who Riffel worked with on Mulholland Dr). We get a look behind the scenes at the making of the project, which is mainly them trying to figure out blocking and lights. Then finally we have a "Hot Dog Scene Remix," which is just like a dance version of the sequence where two girls eat a hot dog together.
There was no reason to make this flick, and Rena Riffel is way past her Hollywood prime. In the end, that is what makes Showgirls 2: Penny's From Heaven feel so wrongly right. It's ludicrous enough to make you giggle like a schoolgirl as it stumbles along messing up every beat of story. Never mind the fact the budget is less than $40,000, or that it's a bona fide mess. Showgirls 2 pays loving tribute to a film that never knew it was trash by being just that without apology. It is a labor of love from a girl who relishes being a cult figure more than the stars of Showgirls ever did. It's something overblown, silly, pointless, and therefore pretty damn charming. It is exploitation for sure, but done with a female touch that makes it all feel—well, just a degree less icky. This time around the movie knows it is complete trash, and relishes it just like the cheap hot dog the two girls munch down on together.
The guiltiest of guilties ever committed to celluloid. Thanks, Rena!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Wild Eye Releasing
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