Cry-Baby (1990)

(In French, On Cable TV, November 2017) Iconoclast writer/director John Waters takes on the 1950s teenage musical comedy with Cry-Baby, and the result is just as proudly weird as anything else from his filmography. The satirical intent is obvious, but so is the affectionate attempt at recreating a lineage that goes from Rebel Without a Cause to Grease, perhaps beginning with Romeo and Juliette. High on camp, Cry-Baby endures today partially because it’s a send-up that doesn’t betray its inspirations, and because it features Johnny Depp in intentional teenage-idol mode. It’s not always interesting: the opening half does push far too much in the freak-and-geeks-are-the-true-cool-people direction, and there’s strong feeling of déjà vu throughout it all. The affection for the grotesque can be off-putting even to the most iconoclast audiences—Kim McGuire’s bravura performance as “Hatchet-face” is the kind of thing liable to make everyone uncomfortable even as the discomfort is the joke. (On a related note: Do read up on Kim McGuire for an amazing life.) Still, the film does pick up a bit of steam toward the end, with a spirited “Please, Mr. Jailer” number leading to a good court scene and a classic teen-movie climax. It’s definitely not for everyone, but it’s not a bad time at all. Cry-Baby’s French dubbed version combines the best of both worlds by thankfully not translating the songs, and adding a delightful layer of French slang over fictional Fifties teen-speak—I recommend the result to everyone who understands even a bit of French.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *