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‘Straight Talk’ (PG)

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 03, 1992

How many times have you said this to yourself? "Gee, I wish Dolly Parton and James Woods would make a movie together." Well, dream no more. "Straight Talk," the new film in which Parton becomes a Chicago phenom with her straight-from-the-heart radio talk show, is the answer to your prayers.

Just think of it. Parton and Woods in amorous embrace. Oops, where'd he go? Oh, there he is. A tasteless joke? Perhaps. But no less so than the moment when this mind-boggling Tracy and Hepburn bed down together. Mercifully, the encounter takes place out of eyesight, though through the open door we see articles of Parton's clothing tossed aside. First a slip. Then a brassiere. Followed by Woods's exclamation. "HOLY MOLY!!!"

This is an odd-couple movie that doesn't seem to know that it's an odd-couple movie; and one that strives to charm and delight despite the complete absence of anything charming or delightful. Parton plays Shirlee, a small-town girl with big dreams who comes to the big city, goes to a radio station to apply for a receptionist job and, by accident, winds up behind the microphone. Naturally, the audience loves her down-home, practical advice to complicated romantic problems. How could they not when she says things like, "Crawl down off the cross, honey. Somebody might need the wood." Or "Sometimes you just have to toot your own horn. Otherwise, nobody'll know you're a-coming."

Shirlee becomes an instant success, but Woods, who plays a hot-shot investigative reporter, smells a rat, and in violation of every journalistic ethic, starts taking her out to get the dirt on her. Sure enough, he finds out she is not a doctor, as she claims to be on the air. But somehow he can't spill the beans on her. You see, he's fallen in love.

That, in fact, is what we're all supposed to do: fall in love with Parton's spunky, unpretentious sex appeal. She's a cartoon of unconscious female voluptuousness; the bombshell who doesn't know she's a bombshell. And partnering her with Woods is supposed to make her seem less like a pen-and-ink drawing, more real. But instead, Parton makes Woods seem like a cartoon. Or better yet, a stick figure. At any rate, the whole thing is Looney Tunes.

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