×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Cecil B. Demented

What seems like the perfect marriage between director and subject yields inconsistent rewards in John Waters' diverting but uneven satire on guerrilla filmmaking, "Cecil B. Demented." Despite an exhilarating start and game performances from Melanie Griffith, Stephen Dorff and a sexy young cast, the comedy suffers by comparison with last year's far more clever and sustained "Bowfinger," which covered similar ground.

With:
Honey Whitlock - Melanie Griffith
Cecil B. Demented - Stephen Dorff
Cherish - Alicia Witt
Lewis - Larry Giliard Jr.
Petie - Maggie Gyllenhaal
Fidget - Eric M. Barry
Chardonnay - Zenzele Uzoma
Pam - Erika Lynn Rupli
Dinah - Harriet Dodge
Lyle - Adrian Grenier
Rodney - Jack Noseworthy
Mrs. Mallory - Mink Stole
Libby - Ricki Lake
Fidget’s Mom - Patricia Hearst
Honey’s Ex-husband - Eric Roberts

What seems like the perfect marriage between director and subject yields inconsistent rewards in John Waters’ diverting but uneven satire on guerrilla filmmaking, “Cecil B. Demented.” Despite an exhilarating start and game performances from Melanie Griffith, Stephen Dorff and a sexy young cast, the comedy suffers by comparison with last year’s far more clever and sustained “Bowfinger,” which covered similar ground. Artisan’s best bet in the U.S. would be to aim for the cine-literate teen audience that made the “Scream” franchise cook.

Set to music by samples wizard Moby, which amusingly toys with blockbuster movie themes, the fun title sequence takes digs at multiplex fodder as it shows theater marquees advertising a Pauly Shore marathon of comedy classics; “Les enfants du paradis,” finally dubbed in English; and multiple screens showing only “Star Wars” and “Star Trek.” This segues to a terrific heist scene, carried off with a flair and energy that the film’s subsequent set pieces often lack.

Pampered Hollywood star Honey Whitlock (Griffith) slinks around her hotel suite, alternately cooing for reporters and unleashing her diva-monster side to her hassled assistant, Libby (Ricki Lake).

Meanwhile, film terrorist Cecil B. Demented (Dorff) and his faithful flock the Sprocket Holes have infiltrated the Baltimore theater holding the charity premiere of Honey’s latest picture. Planting an arsenal of bombs and weaponry, they seize the building, crying, “Power to the people who punish bad cinema,” and kidnap Honey, who shrieks, “Call Jack Valenti!”

Back in the Sprockets’ hideout, the captive star is introduced to her fellow cast and crew in Cecil’s planned movie, “Raving Beauty.” After being subjected to a trashy makeover, Honey shoots the first scene, playing the vengeful wife of a failed art-film exhibitor, who vows to punish supporters of mainstream cinema.

Cecil then reveals his vision of “ultimate reality” and his master plan to shoot the rest of the film with real people and real terror. The Sprockets have sworn off sex until the movie is completed, vowing to channel their raging hormones into their art.

So far so good. But when the crew hits the streets, the idea starts running out of steam, despite no shortage of entertaining gags, industry references and film homages. Cecil and Co. invade a screening of “Patch Adams — The Director’s Cut,” forcing Honey to be a part of the sabotage and capturing the event on film.

Next they hit a Maryland Film Commission event, where casualties start piling up, and from there, the set of the $ 65 million “Forrest Gump” sequel, “Gump Again.” During their rampage, they enlist a crowd of action movie fans to physically fend off an angry family audience.

Honey learns that her flagging box office stock has risen thanks to her terrorist activity, and audiences even say she’s looking younger. She also gets negative press, with Rosanne interviewing her tell-all ex-husband (Eric Roberts) and Libby revealing her insatiable sexual appetites. Unsurprisingly, it’s not long before Honey becomes a Demented convert.

The comedy generally is elementary but enjoyable, with the young thesps playing the Sprockets — all of whom have tattoos illustrating their allegiance to filmmakers like Otto Preminger, Andy Warhol, Sam Peckinpah, Kenneth Anger and Rainer Werner Fassbinder — supplying some amusing turns.

These include Jack Noseworthy (“U-571”) as a hairdresser ashamed of his heterosexuality and Alicia Witt as porn star Cherish. Her All-Anal Movie Marathon — including “Rear Entry,” in which she co-stars with a gerbil — is one of many moments that represent something of a return to the gleeful bad taste of Waters’ pre-“Polyester” films.

As the material starts strong and loses momentum, so does the director’s control, with the action becoming almost as chaotically handled as Cecil’s own opus.

Veteran Waters collaborator Vincent Peranio’s production design is lively and colorful, especially Cecil’s lair, an abandoned theater decked out in junkyard psychedelia. Use of music also hits the target, including the Sprockets’ song “Demented Forever” and the “No Budget” rap.

Dorff delivers all the manic edge necessary to portray the deranged punk artist willing to die for his vision, while Griffith shows herself to be a good sport, with jibes about Honey’s age, her vanity, her tantrums and demands and her position in the industry, first defending and then renouncing it.

Cecil B. Demented

U.S.

Production: An Artisan Entertainment release of an Artisan Entertainment presentation, in association with Le Studio Canal Plus, of a Polar Entertainment production. (International sales: Studio Canal Plus, Paris.) Produced by John Fielder, Joe Caracciolo Jr., Mark Tarlov. Executive producers, Anthony DeLorenzo, Fred Bernstein. Directed, written by John Waters.

Crew: Camera (color), Robert Stevens; editor, Jeffrey Wolf; music, Zoe Poledouris, Basil Poledouris; production designer, Vincent Peranio; art director, Rob Simons; set decorator, Barbara Haberecht; costume designer, Van Smith; sound (Dolby Digital), Rick Angelella; associate producer, Pat Moran; assistant director, Benita Allen Honess; casting, Pat Moran, Billy Hopkins, Suzanne Smith, Kerry Barden. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (noncompeting), May 17, 2000. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 88 MIN.

With: Honey Whitlock - Melanie Griffith
Cecil B. Demented - Stephen Dorff
Cherish - Alicia Witt
Lewis - Larry Giliard Jr.
Petie - Maggie Gyllenhaal
Fidget - Eric M. Barry
Chardonnay - Zenzele Uzoma
Pam - Erika Lynn Rupli
Dinah - Harriet Dodge
Lyle - Adrian Grenier
Rodney - Jack Noseworthy
Mrs. Mallory - Mink Stole
Libby - Ricki Lake
Fidget’s Mom - Patricia Hearst
Honey’s Ex-husband - Eric Roberts

More Film

  • Korea Box Office: "Money" Wins Debut

    Korea Box Office: 'Money' Defeats 'Captain Marvel'

    Korean crime drama “Money” debuted on top of the South Korean box office, preventing “Captain Marvel” from topping the chart for three consecutive weekends. It is the story of a young stockbroker who dreams of riches but becomes caught in a stock market scam. Opening on Wednesday, the Showbox release earned $12.0 million from 1.54 [...]

  • Us Movie

    'Us' Cements the Box Office Power of Jordan Peele

    Given the breakout success of “Get Out,” it’s no surprise audiences were salivating to see the next nightmare from the mind of writer-director Jordan Peele. “Get Out,” which landed a screenwriting Oscar for Peele, became one of the most profitable movies of 2017 (grossing $255 million globally on a $4.5 million budget) after the horror [...]

  • Box Office Film Placeholder

    China Box Office: Taiwan's 'More Than Blue' Wins Second Weekend

    Taiwanese melodrama, “More Than Blue” held strong at the Chinese box office, to secure a second week of success. The film is a Chinese-language remake of a Korean film from 2009, involving Singapore’s MM2 and the filmmaking arm of Fox Networks. With little in the way of strong, new competition, “blue” scored $27 million, according [...]

  • Noah CentineoNickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards, Show,

    Kids’ Choice Awards 2019: JoJo Siwa, Noah Centineo Take on Bullying

    This year’s Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards was full of positivity and encouragement to be yourself. DJ Khaled, known for his upbeat mantras, hosted the 32nd annual awards ceremony alongside JoJo Siwa at USC’s Galen center. Siwa accepted the award for favorite social music star. Siwa said in her acceptance speech, “I get hated on every [...]

  • Us Scriptwriter and Film-maker Larry Cohen

    Larry Cohen, Cult Horror Writer-Director of 'It's Alive,' Dies at 77

    Larry Cohen, best known for his work as a B-movie producer and director in the ’70s and his later work in screenwriting, has died. He was 77. Cohen’s friend, actor and publicist Shade Rupe, confirmed the news, which was announced in a post to Cohen’s official Facebook page. Rupe said Cohen died in Los Angeles [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content