Cecil B. Demented

dir-scr John Waters
with Stephen Dorff, Melanie Griffith, Alicia Witt, Jack Noseworthy, Adrian Grenier, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Eric M Barry, Michael Shannon, Zenzele Uzoma, Larry Gilliard Jr, Harriet Dodge, Mink Stole, Patricia Hearst, Ricki Lake, Kevin Nealon, Eric Roberts
Artisan 00/US 3 out of 5 stars

Review by Rich Cline
After a more grown-up movie (Pecker), John Water returns to the manic politics of, say, Hairspray with this all-out attack on the Hollywood movie machine. Cecil B Demented is consistently sharp, cruel, hilarious and gleefully un-PC. This is seriously big comedy--and an utter joy for fans of off-the-beaten-path cinema.

Cecil (Dorff) is a guerrilla filmmaker out to show the world just how vacuous and lame most Hollywood movies are. So he and his band of "Sprocket Holes" kidnap top actress Honey Whitlock (Griffith) and force her to make an outlaw movie consisting mostly of terrorist action against the cinema establishment. Soon Honey is on their side, and the rebel filmmakers refuse to let even death stop them in their quest for truth and honesty on the big screen.

Waters' script is so relentlessly funny that you barely get a chance to breathe. He pokes vicious fun at virtually every aspect of the movies, from the star system and the ratings board to director's cuts and film festivals. There are so many gags, both on screen and in the dialog, that you probably need to see the film five times to get it all. And all of the characters are vividly written and acted by the gung ho cast (Griffith is surprisingly good in such a broadly comic role). This is the stuff of classic movie comedy, yet if there's one complaint it's that Waters' frantic style leaves us out in the cold. It's all just a bit too over the top, so we laugh at the characters instead of root for them. Even so, it'll make true fans take up the cause of underground cinema. Demented forever!

[18--adult themes and situations, language, vulgarity, violence] 20.Oct.00 lff
US release 11.Aug.00; UK release 8.Dec.00

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"I am an amateur movie maker myself and I absolutely loved Cecil B Demented. There isn't much I can say about it, I just loved it." --Stella, net 26.Feb.03
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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall