Directed and Written by Rena Riffel
Starring Rena Riffel, Glenn Plummer, Greg Travis, Peter Stickles
If Ed Woods and David Lynch made a movie about strippers, you would have Showgirls 2: Penny’s From Heaven. All of you know that I am a HUGE fan of awful, campy movies. They make life better. Whenever I have a bad day, I can pop in Grease 2 and know that all is well in the universe. And so, when I heard that CultureSmash.tv was getting Showgirls 2 (a sequel to one of the most amazingly bad movies ever made), I squealed in delight and beat down a couple of competitors for the film. But was the broken nail and bruised shoulder worth it?
Remember the creepy black guy who wanted to choreograph a really awkward (a combination of awful and awkward) dance for Nomi (aka Elizabeth “I’m so excited- I’m so scared Jessie Spano” Berkly)? Yeah, his name was Jimmy. And then he gave the dance solo to some blonde chick… Penny… Penny Slots. And then he knocked her up. Remember her? THAT is who this film, this crazy film that looks like a 70’s pornographic film, is centered around.
We start with Penny and Jimmy still in Vegas years later. Their baby now lives with Penny’s mother, as Penny was an unfit mother. Jimmy is still working at the grocery store that Penny’s parents own, and of course Penny is still stripping… but this time in an even sleazier joint. The story really starts when a movie producer tells Penny that she is perfect for the part of a stripper in a new movie that he is producing. She gives him a free lap dance to convince him that she should have the role… sounds like a solid plan, right?
Penny, in a delusional state, gets it in her head that she must go to Hollywood to find this movie producer, and become (cue the Marilyn Monroe breathy voice) “A Star!” She then gets picked up by none other than Jeffery, from the original Showgirls. Remember? The dude who picks up Nomi and plays nice with her, only to steal all of her stuff? Oh yeah… that guy. Well, he does the same exact thing to poor Penny… gasp! Now, up until this part, your thinking that this is JUST a really poorly executed sequel to one of the most beloved/hated movies of all time… UNTIL Penny happens upon a band of celebrity impersonators.
NOW, is when it gets MESSED UP! (evil laugh) Penny rides along with this strange band of characters until they stop unexpectedly. The Marilyn Monroe impersonator is really mad at the two men. She believes that they have cheated her out of money. Amongst the scuttlebutt, Penny decides to take a piddle break, and when she gets back, she finds that Marilyn has brutally murdered her two male companions. Penny luckily gets away, but accidentally kills Marilyn in the process. Oops. BUT lucky for Penny, the trio had a HUGE bag of cash on them. Penny takes the cash and runs to Hollywood.
She takes up residence in this crazy, cult-like house, which is also where Penny’s favorite show, “Star Dancer,” is filmed. “Star Dancer” is of worse film quality than the entire film (which tells you something), and has worse dancing than Britney Spears’ “Gimme Gimme” VMA performance. Now we TRULY see the depth of Penny’s delusions… she’s not just a little crazy. She’s Anna Nicole Smith on TrimSpa crazy.
If you didn’t already feel like you’re on an acid trip… get ready because it’s about to get bananas. In the midst of all of this, Penny meets a good-looking, well-spoken, young man, named Godhart. Godhart takes Penny “under his wing,” and takes her to a party in a grand castle… where there’s a large cult… in which Godhart belongs. I’m going to be quite honest, that’s a sideline of the movie I really wish wasn’t in there. The film is too long, and that is one storyline that could have EASILY been cut out. I wouldn’t have missed it. Now at this party, we also meet Godhart’s wife, Katya. Katya is also a dancer… but a “professional” dancer.
Well, soon Godhart gets Penny wrapped up in his prostitution ring… to which Penny says to him, “I made a solemn vow to God that lap dances were as far as I would go!” And I snorted… and peed my pants from laughing. Well, eventually, we see that in “Star Dancer” one of the backup dancers has pulled… yet another stunt from the original Showgirls, and put some rhinestones on the floor for the “Star Dancer” to fall upon and bust her hip.
They bring in Katya to be the “Star Dancer,” and of course Penny’s delusional mind thinks, “Oh, that bitch stole my role.” But in a turn of events, Katya starts a friendship with Penny… teaching her proper dance technique. Their friendship comes to a grand climax with the infamous “hot dog scene.” Which I actually got Ms. Riffel herself to describe. She said that the whole thing was very symbolic. The two women start talking about men and women and their relationships, and then pretty much say, “Screw Men. Goddess Power!” And have a Lady and the Tramp moment with the hot dog… devouring a symbolic wiener. Then the ladies go out to the pool, with the champagne… and bubbles everywhere to re-create the pool scene from the original Showgirls. Now, if you thought that scene was uncomfortable and awkward… you’re gonna LOVE this one! The uncomfortable, awkward sexuality in this scene makes Miley’s VMA performance look like an episode of Mr. Rogers. Please use the restroom before you watch this scene as you might pee yourself while watching from laughter…
The two eventually escape Hollywood together to dance… well, Katya dances and Penny turns tricks and strips to support the two. THIS is where they start to loose me. Penny crosses Katya… Jimmy comes back… and Penny gets indicted for the murder of the three celebrity impersonators. It’s just a whole lot of stuff, some I loved and some I didn’t.
I will totally admit that I had a great time watching this movie, and the more I watched it, the funnier it got. But the one big issue I have with Showgirls 2 is focus. There are just too many little detours that prolong this movie! I really wish that Rena would have cut the script down even more (and allegedly there’s a 3 hour director’s cut!). Otherwise this is an awesomely terrible movie.
This movie has the production look of a 1970’s porno. But that’s part of it’s charm, really. It all kind of works as this strange fantasy in Penny’s mind. In her mind it would be really cheap looking film, with horrible acting, but distorted larger than life expectations. I have to give it a lower score on the video, but at the same time, I want to give it something higher because it works as an artistic choice for the film (even though it was really just a happy accident, considering the super low budget of the film).
Again, just not the greatest audio, BUT this is how it would be in Penny’s head. She’s probably done a lot of drugs… drank a lot… and she’s no spring chicken. Things aren’t going to sound good- and COME ON, she wants to be on a television show that has lower production values than the basic cable access shows I was involved in in High School.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The Packaging is pretty good. It’s pretty standard DVD packaging, with the poster on the front and your standard plot synopsis and pictures on the back. The bonus features are pretty good, too. There are some deleted scenes, a director’s commentary with Ms. Rena Riffel, and the cherry on this crazy, kooky cake, “The Hot Dog Scene Remixed.” “The Hot Dog Scene Remixed” is the infamous hot dog scene, but Rena has cut it up along with trippy EDM beats in the back, and Penny giving a mock lap dance to an empty chair. Dear Rena, you need to send this sequence to David Lynch, because I’m sure it might end up in his next movie… it was that out of place, that perplexing, and that weird.
Overall (Not an Average)
Expect the unexpected. Half of the reason why this has been such a fun journey for me is because since Stephen told me about Showgirls 2, there has been a lot of crazy twists and turns in this process. First, I watched the movie. And to be quite honest… this movie is like Fargo. The first time I watched Fargo, I didn’t really like it, but the more I watched it, the more I liked it. I got it’s twisted sense of humor, and each time, I found something else hilarious that I hadn’t seen before. I am on watch #3 with Showgirls 2, and I can’t wait to have my very own Showgirls 2 viewing party.
Then, I found out that Rena Riffel herself was going to come on our podcast, Smashality. Again, I was beyond delighted because I wasn’t quite sure if she was going to be a kooky ditz or some sort of mad genius… and just as I had hoped, she was a strange combination of both. I’m not gonna lie, you have to be crazy to put on ALL of the hats that this woman did to make a low budget sequel to what is considered one of the worst movies ever made. Seriously though, she was the writer, director, editor, continuity person, wardrobe, star… ugh it makes me dizzy just thinking about it! But also, Ms. Riffel realized the movie that she was making and ran with it… she took a strange concept and a low budget and turned it into B movie gold.
Again, my only complaint is the focus. I, like Rena, wish that she would have had more hands on deck to help her both in pre and post production… I still think that at the very least 30 minutes could have been cut from the film (if not more). I know that this is a film about stripping, but ALWAYS leave them begging for more… after all, we all know there’s a Showgirls 3 on the horizon…