Whiskey Business (Review)
Written by Jed Elinoff, Scott Thomas
Directed by Robert Iscove
Pauly Shore making moonshine on a CMT made for tv movie? How can you say no? The best part is how I taped this and then forgot about it, yet as soon as I found the recording on my hard drive I instantly watched it, because you just have to watch it, even if it is years too late. Yes, Country Music Television makes tv movies now and again, and not only is Pauly Shore being all Jersey Shore in hillbilly land, but there is Tanya Tucker running around, and Dukes of Hazzard alum John playing a corrupt sheriff who is anti-moonshine. That’s some inspired casting, right there.
The movie is dumb as heck and seems to let Pauly Shore improvise half of his dialogue while the scenes play out. But it’s also dumb fun, because Shore’s character begins to grow on you. I am of the often controversial opinion that Pauly Shore is entertaining at times, so your mileage may vary. Some may be shocked because this review of a Pauly Shore movie will be positive, but please try to keep it all in stride…
Nicky Ferelli (Pauly Shore) is a mob boss scion who spends his days working out and spraytanning, and his nights partying it up and making flavored drinks. The only thing keeping him from being a reality show cast member is the lack of a stupid nickname. He has no intentions of taking over the family business, but his dad has other plans, sending him out with enforcer Dino (Ari Cohen). Dino feels that he is the rightful heir to the family, and plans to kill off Nicky, which goes awry as Nicky escapes by hiding inside a truck. But he’s now framed for murder and alone in Tennesse, where he’s promptly robbed of his shoes and left to run through the woods. Avoiding potshots from an angry moonshiner with a gun, Parnell (Brad Borbridge), Nicky is helped by bar owner Jess (Cynthia Preston) and sort of adopted by Trina (Tanya Tucker), giving him a place to stay and food. He ends up helping Parnell (who is Trina’s stepson) and his moonshine, coming up with a scheme to flavor it with fruit so it doesn’t taste terrible.
Amazingly, they manage to make fruity moonshine (Nicky dubs it fruitshine, over Parnell’s objections), and the women of Shinbone, Tennessee love it. They even love it at $12 a pop, and are soon all dancing at Jess’s bar. The men slowly decide to try it as well, and soon the bar is hopping and even young people in their twenties are stopping buy for drinks.
The success raises the interests of Sheriff Gilly Beatlemeyer (John Schneider), who is demanding protection money from everyone in town, and issuing numerous tickets to those who don’t fall in line. Dino also manages to track Nicky down, and now Nicky must escape being murdered and take down a corrupt sheriff, all while brewing up more delicious moonshine. As Parnell explains, moonshine is about sticking it to the man, and the corrupt sheriff is the ultimate representation of the man. And they manage to stand up to him without needing a car with a Confederate flag on the roof.
Whiskey Business rests entirely on the shoulders of Pauly Shore, he’s in 99% of the film and his mouth is constantly going the entire time. His character starts out whiny and unmotivated, but is obviously too good of a person to be breaking legs for money. he’s a social butterfly and makes friends quickly, even in rural country that doesn’t understand half of what he says. He also is the bro-est bro who ever bro-ed, the amount of times “bro” is dropped during the Jersey scenes compares to how often the Roadrunner goes “Meep meep”! There is no way Shore didn’t know this was ridiculous and just decided to go crazy with the jokes, and turned a potentially unlikeable character into someone you want to see succeed.
Outside of Shore, the rest of the cast is just there to fill out the roles. John Schenider plays a good villain, but comes off as cartoonishly evil and was more threatening in some of his tv guest appearances. A standout is Cedric Smith as Jess’s dad, Jack, who is losing his marbles and obsessed with hunting a probably fictitious possum while running around in his underwear. He’s the only character with the energy to keep up with Shore, as Jess is too laid back and Parnell usually just complicit with what Nicky suggests. The montages of Nicky and Parnell working on moonshine and then trying to get Parnell ready to ask out the cute grocery store girl (Kayla Lorette) are some good fun.
The clash of cultures aside, the major deciding factor on Whiskey Business is if you can stand Pauly Shore, and if you can stand made for tv movies that don’t take themselves too seriously. If you are cool with those things, Whiskey Business is worth checking out if CMT ever bothers to rerun it again, otherwise, it becomes a nice movie to acknowledge that it exists just to confuse people who don’t understand how Pauly Shore can still be in movies.
Rated 7/10 (robber, target, tomato people, store logo, rooster deco, fallout shelter, chest shaving)
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