September 28, 2000

Demented Industry

Print More

Let’s face it. The ‘pickins in the good movie department have been pretty slim this fall. Not that Cecil B. Demented will suddenly remind you how great cinema can be, but this quirky, sarcastic film will at least remind viewers of how bad most other Hollywood fare is.

Melanie Griffith adds credibility to this film as an established Hollywood star by playing, well, an established Hollywood star. The spoiled diva is whisked away from a premiere in a Mission Impossible-style kidnapping scene by a group of cinema terrorists led by Cecil himself (played wonderfully by the wild-eyed Stephen Dorff). The band of guerrillas flee to a warehouse where Cecil is making a movie and plotting a revolution against mainstream cinema.

While the first half of the movie is far-fetched, the energy of the film picks up in its second half, as the ridiculousness of the plot continues to snowball. Rapid fire surprises keep the audience alert and jumping. The pace approaches frenetic as the Cecil’s gang struggles against time to finish their movie in the name of righteousness, truth, and cinematic justice.

Written and directed by John Waters (Hairspray, Pecker), Cecil B. Demented is a subversive fantasy about the demise of underground cinema. Irony oozes out of every scene and smart tongue-in-cheek humor abounds, but underneath it all lies a serious criticism of the movie industry in America. Waters trashes both Hollywood and movie fans with a scathing satire of mediocre big-budget filmmaking.

The costumes and set design appear to be inspired by some midway vision of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse and a punk convention. Cecil’s gang of renegade filmmakers, known as the Sprocket Holes, show up wearing everything from straight jackets to neon lycra to 35 mm film. In true superhero fashion, each bears a tattoo of a “hero” director — David Lynch, Spike Lee, and Pedro Alm