Avid moviegoers know that time spent watching good films passes quickly. Viewers unfortunate enough to stumble in upon John Water’s new musical comedy, say, on a Friday night will feel like they’ve finally escaped from the theater on a Monday morning.
Set in 1950s Baltimore, the story centers around a gang of juvenile delinquents called the “Drapes”, their leader, Cry Baby, and his subsequent romance with Aliceson, a “good girl”. Cry Baby’s sex appeal, hot rod and rebellious nature are too much for Aliceson to resist. She soon finds herself riding the back of his motorcycle into “bad girl” habits.
The members of the Drapes graciously accept Aliceson into their ranks, and she begins a character transformation which can only be described as disturbing. In a particularly distasteful scene, Cry Baby teaches a willing Aliceson the intricacies of necking. He promises: “If you don’t like it, I’ll stop,” only to be interrupted by a bolt of lightening. Cursing the Lord’s name, he proceeds to tell the story of his tormented childhood, a tale which we’re apparently supposed to find amusing. It’s not.
There is a noticeable lack of admirable characters in the film. Wanda, Cry Baby’s sister and one of the “heroines”, is pregnant with her third illegitimate child, and remarks to her mother that she is “so happy, all knocked up.” Wanda’s first two children take great pride in their success at stealing hubcaps and cars. Anti-traditional values pervade the script to such a point that normal teenagers, or “squares,” are portrayed as villains and initiate a violent confrontation with the misunderstood rebels.
When Cry Baby is arrested, the good-is-bad and bad-is-good theme dominates the courtroom scene. Christianity is ridiculed and ultimately blamed for the condition of a least one gang member. Specifically, his parents are clearly portrayed as Christians, and as his mother falls to the ground “praying in tongues,” the father mocks, “She’s got God in her gullet,” to which the judge responds, “No wonder your kids are in trouble.”
While there are few obscenities, the inane plot, forced musical numbers and stale cinematography offends the viewer’s senses. The film is being marketed toward teenagers, yet the consequences of a rebellious lifestyle is never addressed. Although one may argue that a film of this nature is designed to entertain rather than enlighten, the sad truth is that it does neither.
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A few profanities and obscenities; promiscuity and sexual references; stealing and rebellion; mild violence; and, Christianity mocked.