Only John Waters could take the 1990 versions of Johnny Depp, Iggy Pop, Ricki Lake, Willem Dafoe, and Traci Lords, throw them into a musical that pokes fun at the innocent ignorance of 1950s film, and make it work. No, that’s not quite right. Only John Waters could do those things and make it kick all kinds of cinematic ass.
Wade Walker (aka Cry-Baby, played by a young and dreamy Johnny Depp) is a leather jacket-wearing, motorcycle-riding badboy and ringleader of his gang of “Drapes” which includes Wade’s teen-mom sister Pepper, a girl named Hatchet-Face (you’ll know her when you see her), her boyfriend Milton, and Wanda Woodward (played by none other than Ms. Traci Lords).
When Allison Vernon-Williams (played by the lovely Amy Locane) decides she’s had enough of being a good girl and is ready to join the proverbial dark side, the Drapes take her in and she and Walker, surprise surprise, fall wildly in love and as they grow closer together, share their deepest darkest secrets. Cry-Baby shares the origin of his nickname and the two open up to each other about how both ended up orphaned. Between Allison’s parents’ planes both happening to crash on the same day and Cry-Baby’s father being sentenced to death for being the “Alphabet Bomber”… Well, it’s truly a toss-up between whose story is more outrageous. Like I said: Only John Waters.
When Cry-Baby is arrested and thrown in jail for a crime he didn’t commit (a riot he didn’t start), Allison and the Drapes take a stand to have him released. This is one of my favourite scenes in the entire film (I know I’m not alone on that) and every time I watch Cry-Baby, I end up with Allison’s “Please, Mr. Jailer” stuck in my head for days.
This film is sexy, fun and hilarious. Its respectful and endearing yet honest mockery of a generation that just didn’t have a clue is on point and blatant, yet subtle enough to be missed by said clueless generation. To be able to salute an era while simultaneously holding up a flashing “HA-HA!” sign over its head – not to mention while singing and dancing! – is a true art. To say Mr. Waters is the man is clearly an understatement. The characters are each so unique, the story is gripping in its unbelievability and it’s just plain entertaining. Mostly though, it’s a love story, plain and simple – as simple as A,B,C,D,E,F,G…BOOM! BOOM!