Cry-Baby (1990): United States – directed by John Waters

Rated PG-13 by the MPAA – contains some grossness and socially unacceptable behavior

I had been somewhat interested to see this film, but my only inhibition was the PG-13 rating.  I needn’t have feared, though, as Waters still manages to make a gross-out romantic comedy.  Granted, the gross-out moments aren’t that bad, but they’re funny and gross enough to have that signature Waters flair.

The entire movie is pure ’50’s nostalgia, way over the top and ridiculous.  Johnny Depp plays Cry-Baby.  He’s a drape, a bad kid, basically a punk.  He lives in a crazy place that Waters must have loved.  His granny is a pretty hot not-so-old lady who steals cars and sells the parts to black kids.  His sister (they’re both in high school still) already has two kids and a third on the way.  This is fine because she’s played by Ricki Lake, and you might remember what she looked like back in 1990.  Anyway, Johnny gets a glance of Allison (Amy Locane) in a wonderful opening sequence, and sparks fly.  She thinks the same thing, especially since she’s been a goody two-shoes square her whole life and never been bad.  So of course things happen and they get together and then break apart and then everything turns out okay.

It’s quite a fun movie and I enjoyed it a lot.  It’s bold and garish, the way John Waters likes it.  There are songs, and many of them are fun.  Johnny sings a fair bit (though not his voice) and there’s an amusing song in jail and a couple other very good ones.  Waters got to use his connections with odd people, even in a regular studio flick.  There’s Hatchet Face (Kim McGuire), a girl in Johnny’s gang (who somehow has a boyfriend).  She reminded me of the “boobs of death” lady in some of Waters’ earlier films.  Absolutely awful, but you can’t look away.  Mesmerizing, sort of like Medusa must have been.  You don’t want to look, you know you shouldn’t, but you can’t help it.  And I think that’s what Waters likes.  Anyway, there’s also a French kissing song involving lots of tongues licking other tongues.  That’s another fun (and sort of gross) moment.  Mink Stole is back, although in a more “square” role than usual.

It still suffers from the same flaws as many Waters movies.  The plot is sort of slapped together, often not worrying about how well it holds up.  The characters are all pretty set in their ways (though, to be fair, I was surprised at the complexity of Allison’s super square elitist grandmother).  But it’s a parody, sort of, and supposed to be over-the-top and ridiculous, so I can’t fault it for that.

In any case, I would definitely recommend this to Waters’ fans, despite the PG-13 rating.  It’s fun, has fun songs, is garish and slightly gross, and is an all-around good time.  It’s well worth the hour-and-a-half investment, and also worth checking out again if you haven’t seen it in a while.


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