Musical 52

Watch 52 musicals, one every week, in 2015.

CRY-BABY (1990)

I have a cinephile confession to make… this is my first John Waters film. Boo and hiss all you want, even I was surprised that I’d never gotten around to a single one of his flicks; truly this is a dirty shame. *fart* Anyway, Cry-Baby is the musical story of Cry-Baby (Johnny Depp), a rebellious Fifties heartthrob that turns ingénue Allison Vernon-Williams (Amy Locane) oh-so-naughty. Wait, isn’t that just Grease? Is this a Grease spoof? Does John Waters hate Grease? Do I? No time for questions, let’s rock!

It honestly feels more appropriate to talk about the campy style of Cry-Baby than it does the exceedingly simple story. The good girl wants the bad boy, things keep them apart, they get together. Sorry for the spoilers.

There are also credits! Surprise!

The squares are square so hard and the cool kids are dangerously cool. No, seriously, they’re constantly pulling obviously idiotic stunts that could easily get somebody killed because they’re such bitchin’ juvenile delinquents, and it’s so cartoonishly over-the-top (complete with zany sound effects) that you can’t help but question why you’ve ever liked any leather jacket type in a Fifties movie.

“I’m instantly aroused. Fuck me, you psychopath.”

I don’t really know what else to say about the plot that doesn’t just ruin the funniest gags or overanalyze the goofiness. It’s a fun romp, you guys. Cars, guitars, sex, prison, Johnny Depp.

And his growly lust faces.

Every single member of the cast is clearly having a fucking blast. Johnny Depp is a snarling rockabilly sex god that somehow calls himself “Cry-Baby” with a straight face. He lives fast, rocks hard, and is definitely getting into your pants.

And lighting your pubes on fire, because danger.

Amy Locane is a goddamn riot as Alison Vernon-Williams. There is zero subtlety to her loss of innocence when she practically moans aloud, “I’m so tired of being good.” Every one of her emotions (sadness, desire, angst) is cranked to 11, like some kind of anti-Vulcan soap opera star.

Join us again tomorrow on Days of Our Ridiculous Lives.

The rest of the roles are mostly bit parts, once again at maximum intensity. Stephen Mailer as the lame white-bread boyfriend Baldwin is such a milquetoast that it hurts…


…and Kim Webb is made of horniness and jealousy as Cry-Baby’s biggest fan Lenora Frigid…

Heir to the refrigerator fortune?

…and also Iggy Pop and Ricki Lake and Willem Dafoe are in this movie. Neato!

Remember when I was shocked to discover that Singin’ in the Rain contains almost no original songs? I ran into the same problem with Cry-Baby‘s wall-to-wall Fifties soundtrack, except it was even harder to figure out which (if any) songs were composed specifically for the movie. Making matters worse, the first two songs are just characters singing over whatever’s on the radio, so I was terrified that this might not even be a musical. But you know what? Let’s not try to categorize John Waters. People sing songs and dance and pretty much nobody made musicals in the Nineties that weren’t cartoons, so count it.

Our first legit performance is Baldwin and His Squares doing a frighteningly cornball rendition of “Sh-Boom” that sets up his character perfectly.

Oh, good God…

At that same talent show, Allison performs “A Teenage Prayer,” which Baldwin’s boner thinks is dedicated to him, but we all know she’s really got her motor running for Cry-Baby.

Cry Teenage Prayer

She wants to be bad, Baldwin, you can’t handle her.

And then, in what I suspect is our first original song since it’s credited to the same man that produced it but I mostly give up on finding out, Cry-Baby belts out “King Cry-Baby,” his rockin’ ode to himself that he invites Allison to make into a duet. It’s catchy as fuck and it set my panties ablaze.

Cry King

Backdrop kinda killed the mood, though.

Cry-Baby’s antics land him in prison, where he sings a couple of Jailhouse Rock-inspired songs, including an enjoyable inmate singalong of “Teardrops Are Falling“…

Cry Teardrops

“Thanks for the back-up, boys!”

…and an ass-kickin’, foot-stompin’, license plate-pounding romp called “Doin’ Time for Bein’ Young,” which I’m fairly certain is an original composition but I’m supposed to stop caring about that. It is full-on rage in a cage and it’s worth watching the movie just for this sequence alone.

Cry Doin Time

Even though Johnny Depp doesn’t do any of his own singing

There are a couple more square songs that are so boring I’m skipping them entirely (though Allison botching “Mr. Sandman” is a great character moment), because I need to get right to “Please, Mr. Jailer.” This scene is stupidly sexy, featuring Allison begging for Cry-Baby to be freed from incarceration. It’s a hot tune, she sways on the hood of a car, she presses against the glass. Aww yeah.

Cry Jailer

Stand back, it’s gonna melt.

And finally, Cry-Baby sings the teenage anthem “High School Hellcats.” From the roof of a car. During a game of chicken. Because this movie is fucking great.

Nobody gets the girl without almost dying first.

No one lyric jumped out at me as being awful, and even if one did, wouldn’t it be an intentional riff on musicals or Fifties songs anyway? But, if I theoretically rewatched one of the numbers and hypothetically picked the first thing that didn’t quite fit… this, I guess…

“Squares, beware of our property…

Fuck Grease. (Grease 2 still rules, though.) Cry-Baby may not be a perfect musical, but it’s a damn fun time. Show it to all the squares on your block.

Evita (1996)

This is Bill’s twenty-sixth week of the experiment. Check up on his sanity in his second quarterly report.