Starring: Johnny Depp, Ricki Lake, Amy Locane
Directed by: John Waters
Running Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
When The Jerry Springer Show was a hot thing in the 90s, I was really into the Ricki Lake Show. It was my Maury for that time, along with Jenny Jones. I vaguely remember one evening at home that I saw the unimaginable: one of my favorite talk show hosts with one of my favorite actors in one movie that was a musical. Every time it came on, I tried to catch it from beginning to end. Recently, I simply wanted something light to watch to mix up all the bad horror movies and now I can share the good feelings this movie always leaft me with.
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. [Source: IMDb]
When watching this DVD, it made me wonder if I've actually seen this from beginning to end and I just always caught this somewhere after the beginning or even in the middle. I also didn't realize how many memorable names were part of the cast such as Traci Lords and Iggy Pop. Then again, I didn't know who they were back then either. Cry Baby holds a small, but special place in my heart for somewhat obvious reasons. Watching it today, brings up some interesting and pleasant childhood memories. Pleasant because I miss staying up late to watch The Ricki Lake Show and seeing the crazy guests on there. Interesting because at the time my classmates were infatuated with a silly little movie called Grease. Every Friday night at my school's skating party, the girls would always request songs from the soundtrack and to this day, I still cannot stand Grease. Obviously, this movie is perfect for me as it parodies and kinda mocks it in an almost crass, but fun way a.k.a. the John Waters touch. Of course, back then, I also didn't know much about John Waters as I do now. Clearly, the little film knowledge I had as a child and pre-teen didn't lessen my enjoyment or love for this movie.
Cry Baby is a movie that satires and at the same time follows the tropes of movies that glorified the 50's (and probably movies of the 50's). The biggest comparison I can think of is what I've mentioned previously which is Grease. We have the good girl falling for the bad boy and wanting to do whatever it takes to steal his heart or just spend time with him and we have the bad boy who notices and wants to whisk her away, which I guess is a little different than Sandy and Danny in a way. Nonetheless, we have this preppy, rich lifestyle (the Squares) against this greaser, poor way of life (the Drapes) bumping heads over territory and love. Both groups have their own preconceived notions about the other, except our main characters Allison and Cry-Baby who see beyond the surface. For both of our main characters is another person trying to get their affection. Allison's admirer tries to keep her a good girl and sing clean cut songs for the people in the suburbs, while Cry-Baby's admirer is trying to be a down and dirty girl that's up for anything. Along with our admirers are the people that occupy these opposing worlds of our main characters. They really bring this universe to life and make things a little realistic. Allison's grandmother gives hope of change slowly but surely and the more she understands Allison's attraction and open mindedness, the more she loosens up, which provides some amusing moments. The Drapes provide the real color to the movie with their low class lifestyle, lewd music and dancing, and overall rebellious attitude toward the norm (a.k.a the Squares). They're not afraid to fight for what's right and defend one of their own, but they're also very accepting of Cry-Baby's love for Allison.
Despite Cry Baby not having the most memorable of soundtracks compared to Grease, it's still fairly enjoyable. From Allison singing with the Squares at a country club of sorts to Cry-Baby pleading behind bars to be free, these moments are entertaining and memorable to me and those who joined this movie's little cult following. I also felt like the choreography was full of energy, emotion, and fun. It really fit whatever tone the scene called for. If you're familiar with Grease and the 50's tropes and have a open sense of humor, then you'll understand what Mr. Waters was going for with this movie. It takes what we know and transform it into something we never would have imagine while making us laugh from beginning to end. The pacing is very smooth and the movie makes sure not to linger on one side or the other.
If you're looking for a fun musical with some crass humor that doesn't hold back, then Cry Baby is your movie. For someone who grew up being annoyed by the Grease trend, this made me feel right at home with the colorful and over the top characters. It mocks what I'm familiar with Sandy and Danny's relationship, but doesn't completely bad mouth the genre. It's funny, entertaining, colorful, and has a great cast of characters to keep you company.
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