Viking Night: Cry-Baby
By Bruce Hall
March 13, 2012
One day while getting vaccinated at school, Cry-Baby comes eye to eye with the beautiful Allison Vernon-Williams (Amy Locane), and it’s love at first sight. But Allison is a Square, which is what the squeaky clean kids call themselves, because normal people pick their own lame, self deprecating nicknames. The two get sweet on each other, much to the chagrin of Allison's family, who happen to be prominent local bluebloods. Yeah, it's the old good-girl-meets-bad-boy story, but there's more. Cry-Baby is also a rock and/or roll singer along the lines of a skinnier, more handsome Elvis.
Meanwhile, Allison's current boyfriend looks like a third string astronaut and sings in a crappy barbershop quartet. And he doesn't like Drapes. Oh yeah...it's on like Donkey Kong. Or jacks...or marbles...or throwing rocks at each other - whatever sucky games kids played back in 1952.
It doesn't take long for the two lovebirds to run afoul of the Establishment, and Cry-Baby ends up in jail while Allison finds herself questioning their love. Everyone sings, everyone dances, and things go pretty much the way you think they will right up to the last shot of film. No, it's not quite groundbreaking stuff. But thanks to some surprisingly effective casting, a twisted sense of humor, some grudgingly infectious musical numbers and Johnny Depp's spot on impersonation of Val Kilmer, Cry-Baby is a grip-load of fun.
It's trashy, cheesy, and more than a little lowbrow - but it's never tasteless or cheap.
Unless you want to contest Patty Hearst dropping the film's only F-Bomb. But if you ask me it's positively priceless, and it's enough to make me forgive and forget that whole machine gun toting bank robber thing. Leave it to John Waters to prove that nothing sells camp like real life freaks of nature. And speaking of camp, and since this is supposed to be a bit of a poke at Grease, I feel the need to mention a few things:
Patty Hearst is a better actress than Olivia-Newton John. Plus, she knows how to handle a weapon. It's the total package.
Yes, the vocals are lip synched. Did you really think Johnny Depp could sing?
Speaking of singing, the songs aren't that good but they're just the right kind of bad that they fit the film's cornball, comic book tone.
Traci Lords will never be confused with an “actress.” But her complete lack of grace and subtlety actually serves her pretty well - and for once, it's in a film you can watch without going to prison for ten years.
Cry-Baby is somehow an improbable work of half-sane borderline genius, and this is coming from someone with a lifelong hatred of musicals - you'd better believe I'm serious. Seriously, I'm trying really hard to think of sage, learned, print-worthy things to say about this movie but the bottom line is that it's just a hell of a lot of stupid fun. That's all it's meant to be, and once in a while that's just the kind of movie we all need. Cry-Baby will probably put a smile on your face - except the parts where Hatchet-Face shows her teeth. I can't say it'll quite put a song in your heart, but it just might put a spring in your step.
It's everything a B-Movie teenage musical comedy-spoof full of porn stars, terrorists and Iggy Pop should be - young, stupid, and mean. And...lots and lots of mindless fun.