Baltimore is to be graced with the presence of a true star: Honey Whitlock (Melanie Griffith) is arriving in town to premiere her latest romantic comedy, and although her fans there are looking forward to the big night, Honey herself is less than pleased about being in the city. In fact, she is a showbiz monster who pushes her assistants around, and even asks her secretary (Ricki Lake) to find out from the manager whether Pat Nixon had sex in the Presidential Suite where she has a room. But someone likes the idea of Honey being in movies - enough to want her to be in his production.
Cecil B. Demented (for it was he, played with conviction by Stephen Dorff) was, if you haven't guessed, a John Waters flick, and saw him taking the bull by the horns as he had not since before his run of milder efforts and going all out, as if to prove he still had it in him to shock polite society with his art. Of course, yesterday's rebel is today's grumpy old man, and here he looked more like he was shaking his fist at Hollywood and railing "Get off my lawn!" as his groundbreaking works were reinvented, glossed up and presented as the type of fodder for multiplexes across the globe.
But more than that, it was Waters and his relationship not to good bad taste but bad bad taste that informed the material, as he obviously felt the masses who flocked to Forrest Gump and Patch Adams were gullible fools, and as much to blame for the banality of culture as the studios who produced such blockbusters. What this brought about in practice were the rebel characters sloganeering throughout, leaving this less a comedy and more a party political broadcast on behalf of the John Waters Initiative, so you couldn't envisage many mainstream minds being changed by the antics on display here.
Nevertheless, enough of the director's wit was able to hit the mark to make his one of his better late period movies, although the sense of raging against the establishment was harder to take here, in a mid-budget movie with worldwide distribution, than it would have been from the Waters of the nineteen-seventies. The plot was essentially the Patricia Hearst story given an anti-Hollywood makeover - Hearst appeared, naturally - so once Holly is kidnapped by Cecil and his unruly band of guerilla moviemakers she is initially appalled, but after being drafted into appearing in their latest opus gets to like them and finally comes around to their point of view.
The cast tried hard, but for most the feeling of posturing never quite left them, and Dorff's performance was more reminiscent of a feature length Kids in the Hall sketch with him in the Bruce McCulloch role. There were giggles to be garnered from various bits and pieces - adult star Alicia Witt's ridiculous porno movie that sees her coupling with a mouse, the way that fans of cult movies band together like Night of the Living Dead zombies to get the rebels out of trouble, the throwaway items of vomitousness like enforced oyster eating - but there was a notable problem. That being, our heroes were pretty much terrorists, and one year after this was released, understandably it was going to look extremely behind the times for most of those watching. That Waters was so serious about the humour this time around definitely took the fun out of much of it, even if you could see his point. Music by Basil Poledouris and Zoe Poledouris.
Witty American writer/director, the chief proponent of deliberate bad taste in American films. His early efforts are little more than glorified home movies, including Mondo Trasho and Multiple Maniacs, but with the notorious Pink Flamingos Waters found his cult audience.