Released as The Best Little Cathouse in Texas in some areas (IMDb)
Length: 105 minutes
Directed by: Colin Higgins
Based on a musical by Larry L. King and Peter Masterson
Jim "Gomer Pyle" Nabors
Rated: R, but damned if I can figure out why. This could play on late night network TV, or cable in the afternoon, with about 15 seconds of editing that nobody would even notice. The most obscene thing in the movie is the early 80s fashion. As one early song proclaims, "There's nuthin' dirty goin' on." Total nudity: 3 flashes of breasts, one bare female butt, and a shower room full of football player butts.
Recommended: four out of five stars
"You know, Ed Earl, seems like ever since I can remember folks been jumpin' on me for one reason or another."
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is the story of the La Grange Chicken Ranch, an idealized, sterile, classy house of not quite so ill repute — where every hooker has a heart of gold — that's been in business for over 100 years. Miss Mona (Dolly Parton) currently runs the bordello, having inherited it from the previous owner. It was established on the edge of the county so it could quietly do business without interfering with the nearby town. The main points of the story are narrated by Deputy Fred (Jim Nabors), breaking the fourth wall to speak to the audience.
The Chicken Ranch, incidentally, got its nickname when the girls started accepting chickens instead of cash during the Great Depression.
"My Frank, when he was alive, used to go up there every Saturday. I took it as a blessing! Of course, things were different then. Nowadays women enjoy doing that sort of thing themselves... at least so I've been told."
Ever since it opened, the house has quietly done its business peacefully (and successfully), not bothering the nearby town or interfering with polite society. Men would come by for some fun and Miss Mona would make frequent charitable contributions to the town. So long as everyone minded their own business, everything was fine.
But an agreement like that can only stand until someone stirs up the muck from the bottom of the pond, forcing everyone to confront the fact that the place is, in fact, both immoral and illegal.
"PLUCK THE Chicken Ranch" — bumper sticker
Enter sensationalistic TV journalist Melvin P. Thorpe (a clean-shaven Dom DeLuise), who's been climbing in the ratings by mudslinging high-profile targets under the guise of protecting the rights of consumers. In a particularly amusing sequence, he decries phonies and hypocrites while putting on a girdle and shoulder pads, and putting a sock in his pants. He comes into town to do an exposé on the Chicken Ranch just before its annual tradition of bringing the winner of the Texas A&M vs. Texas U football game around for a celebration.
Caught in the middle of all of this is ultra-macho Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd (Burt Reynolds), who has every intention of keeping the Chicken Ranch open and doesn't exactly appreciate the New Jersey journalist coming by to tell him how to run his county.
"I've been fightin' crime all my life but let's not confuse crime with committing a sin. You can't legislate morality. Those girls out there have never caused any trouble to anybody. They're healthy, tax-paying, law-abiding citizens who supply a demand and provide an economic asset to the community."
Overall, the songs are enjoyable and well-choreographed, the jokes work out pretty well, and the chemistry between Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton is believable. The soundtrack includes some big song hits for Dolly Parton, including Sneakin' Around (sung with Burt Reynolds), Hard Candy Christmas, and I Will Always Love You (popularized by Whitney Houston).
This movie was parodied in the season 8 Simpsons episode Bart After Dark.
"Y'all come back now, ya'hear?"