"Waters can't keep a straight face. His drapes are freaks; his squares are pegs." | Photo: © Universal, all rights reserved

The ultimate rock-and-roll teenage high school Fifties flickette has a chicken run, motorbikes, serious haircuts, brassieres, tight sweaters, jerkins and jeans. Out there on the dance floor, kids smooch to Bobby Vee, while in suburban kitchens, parents rage against delinquency and sexual enlightenment.

John Waters, ex-baron of bad taste, the man who made Devine eat dog poo in Pink Flamingos, has moved away from X-rated cult camp trash to a softer form of nostalgic pastiche. He knows what's required and lets the boy with the grease quiffed curl swivel his hips and sing Elvis impersonations, as hep cats jive and a trombone wails.

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Cry-Baby Walker (Johnny Depp) is the coolest drape in Baltimore. He may be an orphan ("Ma daddy was The Alphabet Bomber") and ride with a mixed crew of rebel wild things, but his heart is his own and he's looking for love.

Allison Vernon-Williams (Amy Locane) is a strawberries-and-cream pale-cheeked debutante, with a boyfriend called Baldwin, who sings Kingston Trio harmonies with his fresh laundered buds, who are not afraid to raid the drapes and vandalise their wheels.

At school, during an inoculation session, when everyone's wincing and whimpering as the needle goes in, Allison and Cry-Baby's eyes meet across the crowded room. After that, coming down the steps into the hot sun, surrounded by the faces of her smug, rich friends, Allison whispers under her breath, "I'm so tired of being good."

This is a film about Allison being bad and Cry-Baby loving her and going to jail and singing great songs and everyone behaving like they did in Fifties teen movies, except more so, full of music and dance and Hollywood imitating Hollywood (despite being Baltimore).

Waters can't keep a straight face. His drapes are freaks; his squares are pegs. Depp gives Cry-Baby guts and Locane's Allison has a hint of erotic innocence. The walk-on parts are filled with old favourites, like Troy Donahue, Joe Dallesandro and Mink Stole. Patty Hearst is there, too, doing surprisingly well and Iggy Pop, looking like Lou Reed after a week without sleep.

Reviewed on: 16 Nov 2005
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Musical romance charting juvenile deliquency in the Fifties.
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Martin Drury **1/2

Director: John Waters

Writer: John Waters

Starring: Johnny Depp, Amy Locane, Susan Tyrrell, Polly Bergen, Iggy Pop, Ricki Lake, Traci Lords, Patty Hearst, Troy Donahue, Mink Stole, Joe Dallesandro, Joey Heatherton, Willem Dafoe

Year: 1990

Runtime: 85 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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