Retro Review – ‘Cry-Baby’


After so many years playing Jack Sparrow multiple times over, it is easy for movie fans to forget that Johnny Depp was at one point an actor who gave his all in parts that might be considered risky. If you need an example of this look no further than the 1990 cult classic, John Waters’ Cry-Baby.  Depp leads the cast in the standard 1950’s tale of a teenage girl falling for the rebel from the wrong side of the tracks, told with Waters’ famed camp stylings.  The picture looks at the tongue-in-cheek divide between the “drapes” who wear their brand of “juvenile delinquent” with pride and the “squares” with clean cut clothes and haircuts you could set your watch by.

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This was at a point in Johnny Depp’s career where his dashing good looks and charisma earned him the status of  teen idol, which he uses much to his advantage as the motorcycle riding Cry-Baby. His character is seen as a folk hero to his family and friends in the wrong part of town, so it is all the more stunning when he falls for a prominent member of the upper class, Allison Williams. Depp plays the role perfectly as he turns what could be a one note protagonist into a fully formed cult icon. The cast brilliantly walks the tight rope between ridiculous and entertaining which all movies of this kind are forced to traverse. This is in no small part thanks to the genius of John Waters who takes the ridiculous and campy material, which would be rubbish in the hands of anyone else and gives us a hilarious and enjoyable romp. Riffing on the stereotypical American society of the 1950’s with all the standard caricatures of the era; his unique style touches every aspect of the film. With absurd dialogue, catchy musical numbers,  and outrageous scenes like; Allison recounting her parent’s deaths during a make-out session to a mother trapped in an iron lung; this picture stands as one of the finest examples of the fan-favorite filmmaker’s approach to movie making.