Cry-Baby satirizes the 1950's scene in an over the top manner, and it does it as a musical film which suggests that it largely parodies Grease. Grease was a film that I could not stand at all, and so for Cry-Baby to succeed it would have to maintain a distinctively original edge. But the issue is that Cry-Baby attempts to be both a legitimate musical film and a parody of one, and though this may appeal to fans of musical cinema, I am not one of them. Though musical films are hardly a genre I find often appealing, I figured that with John Waters behind the camera that Cry-Baby would be the furthest thing from conventional. Unfortunately, that was not the case. I found that although Cry-Baby featured John Waters' passion for campy filmmaking, it lacked the more darkly comical themes from his superior works and made it a much more mainstream piece. I'm really the wrong person to ask about this because teenage love stories and musical films do not fill me with any real sense of fondness as well as the fact that I have seen only a select few John Waters films, but either way the fact that Cry-Baby did not leave me with any surprises should point out that it lacked anything all that surprising.
The satirical edge of Cry-Baby is not distinctive enough to ensure that the film transcends the exact kind of film that it is parodying, and though it is not without its charms there is just not enough of them amongst the teenage cliches which do not have any sense of appeal to me. The story is passionately ridiculous and intentionally shallow with the best intentions, and it doesn't drag on because its manic energy ensures that it is always straight to the point. But it cannot dash past the fact that at heart, Cry-Baby is so indebted to conventions that it all too often falls back on them which is detrimental to the potential for innovation.
The thing that I don't like about musical films are that they too often tend to be extremely cheesy, and the same goes for teenage love stories. That is why I despised Grease. With Cry-Baby, the film takes that element of cheese and runs with it but only goes so far before it falls back into the route of the same conventions it is attempting to make a mockery out of. Its attempts at mockery utterly come off as being too mild and so the film is really not a funny one to me, as well as the fact that I could not get lost in the musical numbers. I enjoyed the songs, but as many of them were not original songs, there did not feel like enough originality was present in the film. It is clear that neither Johnny Depp or Amy Locane are doing their own actual singing in Cry-Baby, but that is obviously intentional due to the comedic edge that it adds to these scenes, and the composition of the actual musical pieces have their own appeal to them. But the familiarity in them is hard to ignore and they are not played into the film in the most creative manners all the time. Most of the scenes that caught my appeal either came into play based on the film's sense of style or the addition of John Waters' iconic sense of strange humour, and though the former is used a lot, the latter could use a higher demand. I just didn't feel that Cry-Baby was a John Waters film all that often with the exception of the use of former pornstar Tracy Lords among other cast members, and I could not get lost in the overly lighthearted mood of the film as there was little beneath the surface. But I will admit that the surface was surely a pretty one.
The visual style of the film certainly had a sense of fun to it. In keeping with the style of conventional Hollywood musicals from the era that the story is set in, Cry-Baby is shot with all kinds of appropriate cinematography techniques which play around with the perspective yet remaining effective in conveying that the film was shot on location. The scenery for the film is wonderful due to its sense of colour and the production design combines with it to establish the time period and setting of the story very easily. In that sense, the electric campy energy of the film is felt and it merges with the musical numbers to create an energetic atmosphere. Though I didn't get lost in the songs, I did get a certain kick of nostalgic charm out of hearing the groovy tunes of the era without them being anything short of satirical. The pre-existing pieces were not the best, but songs such as the titular theme tune are not without their entertainment value.
And though Johnny Depp was an actor who could not stand his status as a teen idol, Cry-Baby notably served as an opportunity for him to lampoon his pretty boy image and though the film did not entertain me all that much, it was refreshing to see him in such an unconventional and cheesy role where he went for a heavily stereotypical angle and it paid off. Johnny Depp's charisma is very charming in Cry-Baby, and the fact that he just took such an over the top shot at himself from the early days does certainly give a fun sense of nostalgia to the feature at many moments.
So Cry-Baby reaps a benefit from the presence of Johnny Depp and John Waters' stylish directorial work makes it a treat for the eyes, but those who are not easily lost in the genre of musicals or teenage love stories need not apply due to the fact that Cry-Baby falls into both of them instead of parodying them sufficiently.
The youngsters in "Cry-Baby" are divided into two categories: the "drapes" (the cool kids), and the "squares" (the Jan Bradys). The film is a "Romeo and Juliet"-type love story between a drape and a square, Cry-Baby Walker (Johnny Depp) and Allison Vernon-Williams (Amy Locane), respectively.
There are songs. There are choreographed dances. There is red lipstick and fast- cars. But this is a John Waters movie; you get all of that, yes, but you also get former porn stars (Traci Lords), former kidnapping victims (Patty Hearst), and a badly gussied up "girl" who goes by the name of Hatchet-Face (Kim McGuire).
And I loved every minute of it. "Cry-Baby" is like the play your friend drags you to, promising it will be fantastic. Your doubts are stronger than your legs and your eye-rolls are armed and dangerous. But the second you let your guard down, it consumes you.
The film mixes the cheek-to-cheek teen movie cheesiness of the 1950s and 60s with an array of sharp one-liners and exaggerated stereotypes. Sure, John Waters is famously the king of bad taste, but nothing he's ever made has felt this deliriously awesome.
The casting of Johnny Depp is wondrous; featuring the actor before he became Ed Wood or Captain Jack Sparrow, he's a caricatured knockout as Cry-Baby Walker. Filmed at the height of his teen heartthrob fame from "21 Jump Street," it's a risky move that surely pays off. He spurts out so many single-tears and so many godforsaken smolders that it combines his eccentricity with his commercial appeal. It's a prelude, you might say, for his long and unpredictable career.
"Cry-Baby" has "cult film" written all over it; for the drapes, it's immensely quotable and delightfully tongue-in-cheek. For the squares, it's a bizarre encounter. I'd like to think of myself as a drape the majority of the time, and maybe the fact that I think "Cry-Baby" is such a camp masterpiece confirms it.
There are the movies you love because they're artistically memorable. There are the movies you love because they bring back cherished memories. But then, there are the movies that are the equivalent of the first hour of Disneyland, a night out with friends. "Cry-Baby" is not high-art nor is it in the same ballpark as ... anything. It's one of those movies you tell all of your friends about, and then, on a boring Sunday afternoon, watch again.