CRY BABY (1990)



Written & Directed By: John Waters
Cinematography By: David Insely
Editor: Janice Hampton 

Cast: Johnny Depp, Amy Locane, Polly Bergen, Ricki Lake, Traci Lords, Susan Tyrrell, Troy Donahue, Willem Dafoe, Patricia Hearst, Iggy Pop, Joe Dellasandro, Darren E. Burrows, Mink Stole, Joey Heatherton, Kim McGuire, Stephen Mailer, Kim Webb, Alan J. Wendl, David Nelson

Allison is a “square” good girl who has decided she wants to be bad and falls hard for Cry-Baby Walker, a Greaser (or “Drape” in John Waters parlance). Spoofing Elvis movies and Juvenile Delinquency scare films of the ’50s, this movie follows the adventures of Cry-Baby who, though he is sent to juvie, is determined to cross class (and taste) boundaries to get Allison back.

This is probably the most mainstream film director John Waters has ever made. It still has little touches of his own style that make it register immediately as one of his productions. As the film has generous amounts of camp and humor. As well a spotlight on bad taste and troublemakers in other words for him especially at the town the film is set in the dirty people, Still Campy overall.

Due to the huge success of his previous film HAIRSPRAY, John Waters got offers from all the big studios to finance his next movie. The budget for this movie was twelve million dollars, while HAIRSPRAY was made for 2.5 million dollars. This is his first studio film

The film also centers around it’s star which is a trait all of Waters films do have. They have a star who gets to be all over the film and always is at the center no matter what subplots are introduced. The film always has the star be glamorous. Here the film’s star is Johnny Depp and this film works as it lets him send up his teen heartthrob status while seeking to destroy it. Giving the film strength as a send-up virtual spoof of those 1950’s type heart throb teen movies. While actually being one. Which it would be hard to seperate as those films usually had tons of camp that was unintentional. Plus to add to it the film is a musical. One with a catchy soundtrack. As well as an homage to teen films of that classic 50’s era.

Which is why I am shocked that when it became a Broadway musical it didn’t follow in the footsteps of HAIRSPRAY another John waters film that was made into a successful Broadway show which then inspired an all star big screen musical remake.

The film works as a musical too even when some of the actors are obviously lip synching to better singers. As the songs are catchy and the actors sell it. Even the choreography works.

John Waters films soundtracks usually are awesome as they tend to take the audience into the past and showcase old classics and little known one hit wonders usually doo-wop songs. So that while random it feels like a really cool jukebox playing oldies and helps to discover some obscure musical acts and singers. Which is partially disappointing that he doesn’t make films really anymore as that was always a gift to go with the films.

Though shouldn’t come as that big a surprise as the film wasn’t a hit. Though luckily it didn’t court that much to make. It did at least put a dent in Johnny Depp’s teen heartthrob phase as it proved his fans at the time wouldn’t follow him everywhere. Appearing in films such as these and the films he kept appearing in at the time. Showed that he wanted to be taken seriously to a degree as more of an artist. One with a sense of humor about himself. It translated into the cute emo crush who had bizzare tastes though not goth. It did show a willingness for Depp to be artistic and humorous. Though desiring to be dramatic.

Here he was obviously trying to challenge and deconstruct his stardom at the time. Especially his status. As well as lampoon it. As this film didn’t do big business. It did help him get roles to further challenge himself and the public’s perception of him. That he seemed to revel in like if you want to see me you are going to have to sit through this. Though here this is one of his most lighthearted role at least until BENNY & JOON. He of course fits right into the John waters world and mode.

To find a young actor for the role of Wade “Cry-Baby” Walker, director John Waters bought thirty dollars worth of teen magazines, all of which showed Johnny Depp on the cover. Depp thought the script was funny and strange, and took the offbeat role to avoid being typecast as a television teen idol.

Tom Cruise, Robert Downey Jr., and Jim Carrey were all considered for the role of Cry-Baby until Johnny Depp was cast.

This film could have easily been made in the same time period it is set with some tweaks here and there, but also because of the time this film was actually made it also adds to the aging of the material. So that this film looks dated itself.

Half of the fun of this film is in the casting of notorious celebrities in supporting and cameo roles. Such as singer Iggy pop and ex-porn star Traci Lords and infamous Patty Hearst. Some more extreme than others. The film even has ex-heartthrobs in the film. Such as Andy Warhol produced movies leading man Joe Dellasandro. That makes the film come off as renegade cinema just as much as the cast members. Which also speaks to the core of the story. As well as lending itself to be subversive entertainment for a mainstream audience.

This was many of actress Amy Locane’s starring roles. She is game as she usually was but never quite found that movie they stood out or they she necessarily stood out in. Before she quit the industry entirely. As the last time I remember seeing her in anything was the film SECRETARY in a small role. Here she portrays innocence well and has the proper chemistry with Depp as the good girl who wants to be bad.

This film isn’t as dirty, disgusting or trashy as some of his other films or as his reputation would have you believe. The bad taste comes out here and there, but not quite as strong.

Though the original HAIRSPRAY might be the best introduction for most people as it really is his first mainstream effort. This is also a good jumping off point. Though it will not properly prepare you for his more shocking earlier works. Nor does it really speak to his appeal and talents as much. Though it might help one to gain interest in his work. To show he’s not some studio filmmaker bit actually has a passion and is trying to express something with his films.

It’s a fun ride of nostalgia. While allowing itself to be subversive. It’s a film that seeks to have a good time and is infectious for the audience as well.

Grade: B-

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