The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982)

Week of December 29, 2005


Musical theater is the equivalent of TV sitcoms: Even when it's good, it's not that good. And when it's adapted for the silver screen, it's usually horrendous. But The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is actually entertaining, thus making it a monumental achievement in film adaptation.

"You know what really burns my ass?" asks prairie-brothel den mother Dolly Parton. "A flame about three-feet high." Also, according to her sheriff lover, Burt "Ed Earl" Reynolds, nothing is quite so quick as "cat shit on a linoleum floor." What makes lines like this fly in Whorehouse is that they're delivered by Reynolds and Parton, both native Southerners who, whatever their acting shortcomings, have great chemistry together.

But what this film really does is reveal the depth of Adam Sandler's Burt Reynolds fixation. Not only did he remake The Longest Yard out of sheer randomness, he cast Reynolds himself in a role other than the one he played in the original. There were less obvious antecedents to this obsession. In Happy Gilmore, when Sandler's Happy sees a limousine in a golf-course parking lot, he speculates aloud: "Must be Burt Reynolds or something." The ultimate bit of insider Burt worship was Sandler's decision to cast Theresa Merritt as the overweight black maid, Juanita, in 1995's Billy Madison. ("Ooh, that boy's a fine piece of work. He's a fine piece of ass though, too!") In Whorehouse Merritt plays Parton's overweight black maid! Had Merritt not croaked in 1998, she'd probably still be playing overweight black maids today.

Each week the author treks to the Schlafly branch of the St. Louis Public Library, where a staff member blindfolds him and escorts him to the movie shelves. After selecting a film at random, Seely checks it out and reviews it.

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