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Straight Talk Review

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After trying to start a new life in Chicago, Shirlee (Parton) tries also to change career. She finds herself filling in for a sick radio psychiatrist but with no former experience it comes as a surprise when the listeners can't get enough. A rival company then hires a detective (Woods) to find the dirt on their opposition.

★★★★★

The curious pairing of pneumatic Dolly Parton with neurasthenic James Woods for this musical romantic comedy may have been an inspiration, but it wasn’t one that will rank right up there alongside peanut butter with cream cheese, Spencer Tracy with Katherine Hepburn, or Roy Rogers with Trigger. Parton is sassy, straight-shooting Shirlee, small town gal, failed dance instructor and natural-born busybody, who resolves to rid herself of losers and make a new life in Chicago.

Down on her luck (if not at heel in the most alarming collection of stilletto shoes), she accidentally becomes the toast of talk radio when she is idiotically mistaken for a no-show shrink and delights listeners with her folksy life wisdom to advice seeking phoners-in. One would have thought those city slickers in Chicagey would be a might sharp to go crazy for Dr. Shirlee — sort of a cornpone Dr. Ruth with cleavage. But if one is prepared to accept Shirleemania gripping the megalopolis, the ensuing developments — accompanied by a soundtrack of new Parton songs — seem reasonable enough. Woods as a maverick investigative journalist — just for a change of pace — is assigned to check the background and dig up the dirt on the good “doctor”, and is, of course, overwhelmed by her, er, credentials.

As ever, Parton comes over as a smart, sweet, funny, charming woman. Woods, looking terrible, is less happily employed with quite the most excrutiatingly corny lines of his career, while Griffin Dunne as the radio station manager is simply very not funny. It’s not unagreeable, but as slight as can be.

This is a Dolly Parton vehicle but surprisingly Dolly Parton is the best thing in it. Although she always comes across as charming, sweet and unaffected, here she is matched with James Woods who couldn't look more ill at ease if he tried. Sadly with the lines he's given, his attitude might be justified.