video

C+

Cry-Baby

Genre: Comedy, Romance, Musical; Starring: Johnny Depp, Amy Locane, Polly Bergen, Willem Dafoe, Troy Donahue, Patricia Hearst, Joey Heatherton, Joe Dallesandro, Ricki Lake, Traci Lords, Stephen Mailer, Iggy Pop, Mink Stole, Susan Tyrrell; Director: John Waters; Author: John Waters; Release Date Wide: 04/06/1990; Runtime (in minutes): 85; MPAA Rating: PG-13; Distributor: Universal

As John Waters’ follow-up to the utterly wonderful Hairspray, Cry-Baby should have been a masterpiece. The cliche-ridden genre of 1950s teen rebel movies lends itself to the writer-director’s perverse mixture of kitsch satire and discerning musical taste. And the stroke-of-genius casting — surrounding straightforward principals with such offbeat cultural icons as Traci Lords, Patty Hearst, and Iggy Pop — maintained the mild freak-show appeal endangered by the death of longtime Waters star Divine.

In a theater, Cry-Baby’’s alienating failings — mediocre script, hammy, self-conscious acting, wooden direction — were somewhat mitigated by the great rock & roll music sung by James Intveld and Rachel Sweet, and by the colorful spectacle. If Johnny Depp’s smoldering stare couldn’t completely disguise his shortage of talent, the roar of a motorcycle and the mock-”Jailhouse Rock” choreography could. But watching ”Cry-Baby” on a 19-inch TV screen and hearing it through a 3-inch speaker further accentuates the lack of scale and occasion. We’re left with the impression of a large-budget lip-synch contest with a costumed cast of hundreds.

Still, Cry-Baby contains some classic examples of Waters’ wit, such as the priceless sight gag involving a 3-D movie. But even the rip-snorting production numbers set inside a prison (”Doin’ Time for Bein’ Young” and ”Please, Mister Jailer”) don’t compensate for the film’s many shortcomings. My advice? Get the soundtrack album and skip the movie. C+

Originally posted September 14 1990 — 12:00 AM EDT

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