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Cry Baby - Director's Cut  (1990)


Rating: PG-13

Distributor: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

Release Date: July 12, 2005
Review posted: July 20, 2005


Reviewed by Greg Malmborg




Cry-Baby is John Water’s tribute to the age of rock – the 50s, juvenile delinquency, and the age old relationship of teenage rebellion vs. adulthood.  Released in 1990 to some critical success and unfortunately low box office, it has since garnered a cult status (and possible new Broadway musical) and Waters’ is now releasing this director’s cut with some originally scrapped scenes put back in.  The musical comedy takes place in Baltimore, circa 1954, at the dawn of rock n’ roll where teenagers are subdivided into two distinct groups: the squares and the drapes.  The squares are your typical 50s squares: crew cuts, varsity jackets, cleaned up kids getting ready for college, and the drapes are the white T-shirt, leather jacket wearing, slick back haired never-do-wells. 


The leader of the drapes, Wade “Cry-Baby” Walker (Johnny Depp), is a delinquent orphan whose father was executed as the infamous Alphabet Bomber.  He forever has a tear that slides half-way down his cheek serving as a reminder of his horrible, tragic past.  Cry-Baby’s gang is mostly made up of his band mates (including Traci Lords as the bad girl Wanda) and his pregnant sister Pepper (Ricki Lake) and her boyfriend.  They hang out on the wrong side of the tracks at a spot called Turkey Point run by Cry-Baby’s grandparents (Iggy Pop and Susan Tyrell), a rock n’ roll couple helping the drapes be the rock n’ roll gang they need to be.


At school, Cry-Baby meets Allison (Amy Locane), a square who is developing a huge crush for the dangerous Cry-Baby.  It’s not long before Cry-Baby steals her away from her boyfriend (Stephen Mailer) and Allison starts becoming a drape (Pepper calls her a ‘scrape’- half square, half drape) at the horror of her square pals and uptight grandmother (Polly Bergen).  This sets off the inevitable squares vs. drapes showdown that could tear the couple apart forever or possibly bring together a teenage culture.       




Cry-Baby is one of two John Water’s films that can be considered mainstream (Hairspray the other) and not coincidentally this (along with Hairspray) is definitely one of his best.  The film is a musical tribute to the 50s (the looks, music and films of that decade) and the main theme is teenage rebellion and how in any decade adults struggle to understand them and instead of trying to, they ostracize those that do things differently.  The 50s just happened to be a decade where this was distinctly obvious with the looks of the delinquents captured by slick hair, white T-shirts, leather jackets, cigarettes, and rock n’ roll.  Waters captures this with his typical eccentric characters, great rock n’ roll musical numbers, terrific and energized performances, and his flair for mixing the weird and somewhat sick with a touch of sweetness.


Waters hits on all of the 50s nostalgia – the great rock n’ roll, atomic bomb drills, the fashion, the talk, the cars, and the overall sense of change on the horizon.  It has been compared to Grease, unfavorably when it was released, as it is nowhere near as straight forward or classically done, but it is almost as fun and energetic.  The film is filled with Waters’ eccentricities and unique brand of humor thus putting it in a class of its own and (of course) making it not for everyone.  There are a few trouble spots where Waters would have benefited in holding back on the oddness and strangeness.  And here in the director’s cut he adds in a bit more.  The character of Hatchet Face (Kim McGuire) is so oft-putting and made out to look so ugly that it takes away from the film, she should have been cut out.  There are also some slower parts in the film (mostly when Depp’s character is off-screen).  But this is definitely one of Waters’ most accessible and fun films.  And even with all of Waters’ weirdness and sick humor, the film maintains a certain innocence and sweetness to it that makes it still an endearing film.


The performances are just terrific, full of energy and fun.  Johnny Depp as Elvis-like Cry-Baby is simply amazing.  He inhabits the character with so much charisma and vigor, he just jumps off the screen and the film feeds off his energy.  Amy Locane is also perfect as the virginal Allison whose inner bad-girl demons desperately want to bust out.  Her innocence and open-eyed wonder are just spot on and perfectly offset Depp’s nonstop energy.  The supporting cast is just chock full of lively and entertaining performances.  From Traci Lords as the overly horny and rebellious Wanda to Ricki Lake as Cry-Baby’s ridiculously pregnant and tough sister to Iggy Pop as Cry-Baby’s rebellious grandfather to the classy Polly Bergen as Allison’s slowly changing grandmother, they all deliver fun and energetic performances perfectly toned to fit their characters.  Even Willem Dafoe shows up in a small, bit part as a cop at a juvenile hall.  All of the actors deliver when it comes to the great musical numbers (especially Depp and Locane).  The music is catchy and enjoyable, picking up the film in some of its slower parts. 




The transfer is fantastically vibrant and lucid with sharp colors and beautiful contrast without any noticeable clarity or grain issues.  It is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and it is a strong, superior video transfer.




The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 and the film sounds amazing.  The musical numbers just jump through the surround; this is a very active and dynamic audio presentation with clear dialogue and perfect balances.




Commentary with John Waters – This is a very fun, comical, informative and interesting commentary track from director John Waters.  His DVD commentaries are just terrific; he doesn’t hold anything back and is just a real interesting and humorous character.  He also loves film, providing some great reference points and exuding such passion for the medium.  Some interesting tidbits: Traci Lords was cast in this right after the big porn controversy that came out and federal agents were all over the set, Johnny Depp was currently the teen idol doing 21 Jump Street and was dying to do something different and after this film he became the distinction of different, this was the first and only Waters film were he had full studio backing and big studio money, and Amy Locane fainted in rehearsals when she had to kiss Depp for the first time as she was only in high school at the time.


“It Came from Baltimore” Featurette – This is an in depth look at the making of the film with brand new interviews from just about everyone involved, including the two stars (Depp and Locane).  I just absolutely loved this featurette.  This is why anniversary and director’s cut DVDs are released.  Get everyone (and I mean everyone) who was involved in the film and get their thoughts on everything after all the years have gone by.  It also helps that everyone interviewed is so forthcoming and open with information.  This film seemed like it was an absolute blast for everyone to make and this extra is filled with interesting anecdotes.  This is a real treasure of an extra.


Deleted Scenes – These scenes will show you just how much further into the strange Waters really wanted to go.  There is one really creepy scene where Traci Lords character gets basically kidnapped by a sexual predator in a joking fashion, as well as a real nasty vomiting scene involving a helicopter.  Makes perfect sense why these were cut.  There is one whole musical number by the squares that is also included.  The great thing about these scenes is that they are true deleted scenes (not just extended scenes or quick snips).




Cry-Baby is a fun, rocking good musical filled with great music, energetic performances (and Depp’s first great film role), 50s nostalgia, and (of course) John Waters’ trademark humor and weirdness that is thankfully toned down to just the right level (well, almost).




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