Cry-Baby Movie Review
Johnny Depp is America’s second favorite movie star (behind only Tom Hanks). That’s according to this new(-ish) poll. It’s safe to say that I’m a pretty big Depp fan, although he hasn’t really had a huge hit since the last (terrible) Pirates movie. I’m currently working on a labor-of-love Johnny Depp project that I hope to unveil this month, if time allows. In preparation, I’m revisiting some of his best movies and I’m also watching his films that I missed the first time around.
Cry-Baby is in the latter category. I’m not a big fan of musicals, unless it’s in a live setting. I”m also not very familiar with John Waters’ work. However, Depp’s character of Cry-Baby Walker is going to be featured in my project, so I figured I’d better familiarize myself with the film.
Many days later, I’m still not sure whether I liked this movie or not. As I explained in my introduction, I watched this movie more as homework than for enjoyment. That said, there’s lots of good stuff in this film, which I’ll get into below.
- Playing with expectations. Waters took a few 50s tropes and turned them on their heads. For example, the good guys are the drapes and the bad guys are the squares. In any other 50s teen movie, the drapes would be the villains who terrorize the goody goodies. Not here. As Roger Ebert wrote, “The bad guy is the good guy.” It was also fun to see Patty Hearst in a “square” role. Knowing her criminal past makes this casting very funny.
- The music. As someone with a soft spot for 50s rock and roll, I really liked the music in this movie. Everyone does a fine job with these songs, and Depp is especially good. I don’t think he’s really singing, but he is really dancing and you can’t take your eyes off him.
- The art direction. Waters and company nailed the look of the film. The cheesy sets and colorful costumes really evoke both the 50s and camp musical comedy. Everything is brightly colored and overdone, and it works for the film’s tone.
- The weirdness. John Waters, from what I understand, has a love for freaks and weirdos. It really shows in this movie. “Hatchet-Face” is the obvious example. Her ugliness is accentuated in the movie, but she’s never portrayed as monstrous. She’s a very likable character. Even the typical pretty people are a bit weird. There’s a make out scene that is so graphic as to be off-putting. No doubt this was on purpose. Little details of weirdness elevate the film from just a campy 50s ode to something more.
Despite all the pros, there are a few cons that robbed me of my enjoyment of this movie.
- The story. The story is a basic Romeo and Juliet story, and not much more. This was already done better as a musical in West Side Story. There are few surprises with this kind of story, and the ending was very predictable.
- The pacing. The movie is very slow, probably due to its musical nature. Though the movie is only 85 minutes long, I had to split my viewing in two because I was a bit bored halfway through. The pace is extremely slow, and not much happens for most of it. It’s more about visuals and themes than plot.
- Loose ends. There are a couple of subplots in the movie that don’t get resolved. For example, what happens to the Swedish exchange student?
Cry-Baby is a movie that I enjoyed, for the most part, I guess. I don’t think I’ll ever want to watch it again, but I don’t regret watching it. The music was strong, the performances appropriately campy, and the visuals will stay with me for awhile. If you’re into musicals and oddball movies, you’ll love it, but I can’t say it’s meant for general audiences.
Story: ★★ of 5
Music: ★★★½ of 5
Comedy: ★★★ of 5
Visuals: ★★★★ of 5
Overall: ★★½ of 5
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