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Universal Studios Home Video presents
"I'm so tired of being good."
DVD ReviewAfter the success of his 1960s dance extravaganza Hairspray (1988), trash auteur John Waters turned the clock back a bit further to 1954 with his innovative musical comedy Cry-Baby. It also helped launch the starring film career of Johnny Depp, fresh off his success on 21 Jump Street. It's hugely entertaining, with a killer soundtrack and just enough weirdness to please Waters' fans but mainstream enough to be accessible to those not prepared to delve into Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble.
Seventeen-year-old Alison Vernon-Williams (Amy Locane) is firmly in the world of the Squares in 1954 Baltimore, thanks to her grandmother (Polly Bergen), who runs the RSVP Charm School. When she meets Wade 'Cry-Baby' Walker (Depp), who knocks all the girls for a loop by his ability to shed a single tear, Allison is enthralled by his bad-boy nature. The hep kids, the Drapes, have their own spot at Turkey Point, where Cry-Baby sings rockabilly. The Squares attack Turkey Point, setting Cry-Baby's beloved motorcycle on fire, and as a result of the ensuing fracas he's sent to reform school. But Allison's devotion won't let him rot there. Along the way, there's class warfare between the world of the bunny hop and the Everly Brothers, and the world of rockabilly, teen rebellion, and juvenile delinquency
Depp is fascinating, with the first of a long line of incredibly strange role choices that persists to this day. Although he insists in the extras that he can't dance, he puts on a darned good show (though his singing is dubbed by someone else, as is the case for all the principals). His portrayal of an Elvis-like greaser is right on the money, and it's quite entertaining. Locane is sincerely torn between the Squares and the Drapes, especially after she mistakenly believes that Cry-Baby has betrayed her. Ricki Lake returns, as Cry-Baby's extremely fecund little sister. Waters brings in a huge supporting cast of C-list celebrities that's entertaining in its own eclectic right: Susan Tyrell, Iggy Pop, Patricia Hearst, David Nelson (of Ozzie and Harriest fame), Joey Heaterton, and Troy Donahue. Even Mink Stole and Mary Vivian Pearce, the last surviving few of his Dreamland regulars, make a tiny appearance.
One of the intriguing cast choices is the notorious Traci Lords, fresh off her underage porn escapades, as Drape Wanda Woodward. She has an authoritative and authentic bad-girl air that really works quite well and demonstrates that she actually has some decent acting chops, especially in the restored scenes and in the deleted scenes that give her a chance to strike back at the porn industry. This is a significantly more substantial cut of the film, adding back a production number set to Pistol Packin' Mama (seen in the television version) and a funny sequence of Tory Donahue and Mink Stole acting as cigarette pushers to the high school students ("Six to a nickel!"). Patricia Hearst's funniest gag, spoiled by bleeping in the theatrical release to garner a PG-13, is intact in all its obscene glory here. Bergen's character also comes off as more sympathetic than in the theatrical cut.
Although it's at its heart a Romeo and Juliet story, the combination of Waters' weird sense of humor, class warfare, rockabilly and elaborate production numbers makes it something purely distinctive and worth a watch. Although it's Waters' only entirely Hollywood film, it's by no means a sellout. With a killer soundtrack throughout, Cry-Baby bears repeated viewings.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-
Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen presentation is virtually flawless. The source print has no damage at all, colors are vivid and blacks are rich. While there's some grain, it's very well-rendered and looks filmlike. No artifacting or edge enhancement was noted.
Image Transfer Grade: A+
Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 audio track is also quite good, with a clean and precise presentation. There's a nice broad soundstage, with significant directionality, particularly with the music. Range is excellent and the soundtrack has good presence. Nothing whatsoever to complain about here.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Big Lebowski, The Wedding Date
5 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by John Waters
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Layers Switch: 01h:03m:55s
Extras Review: As usual for Waters' films, there's a substantial quantity of valuable extras here. Most prominent is a new documentary, It Came from Baltimore (47m:39s) that covers virtually every aspect of the production, with interviews from nearly all the surviving principals, including Depp, Lords, and Lake. Waters puts the film in its chronological and geographical perspective, showing brief clips of many of the 1950s J.D. films and period photos that served as inspiration. If you haven't had enough, Waters contributes one of his typically entertaining commentaries, shedding more light on the background and discussing his memories of the period, the film and his cast, with wide-ranging comments on his fascination with crime and what's wrong with Court TV. Finally, there are five deleted scenes, including a complete production number, a particularly gross gag and two segments allowing Lords to express herself on the porn industry. The only significant omission here is the original theatrical trailer, which is unaccountably absent.
Extras Grade: A-
Final CommentsWaters and Depp fans will be overjoyed at this first-class release of one of the director's most accessible and entertaining features, best seen as an Elvis film without Elvis. Highly recommended.
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