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Overall Rating

Awesome: 8.89%
Worth A Look: 17.78%
Pretty Bad: 17.78%
Total Crap: 15.56%

4 reviews, 21 user ratings

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Dirty Shame, A
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by EricDSnider

"Middle school called. It wants its jokes back."
2 stars

John Waters has made a career out of being distasteful, but his new film, "A Dirty Shame," works so hard at it that you'd think the oily old man has lost his touch. Being raunchy shouldn't be this difficult. Dirty jokes are the EASY ones to come up with. Ask any 7th-grade boy.

This movie is why headache-relief medicine was invented, and I don't just mean because it has a scene where people head-butt each other for purposes of sexual gratification. It's a braying, garish movie in which, as usual, Waters has cast actors who think a bad performance is the same as a "campy" one. Some of the supporting roles, I swear, are like watching auditions for community theater.

It is set in the tranquil, decent Baltimore neighborhood of Harford Road. Here lives the Stickles family, sex-hating wife Sylvia (Tracey Ullman), horny husband Vaughn (Chris Isaak) and huge-breasted teenage daughter Caprice (Selma Blair, who is small-breasted in real life). Caprice is kept locked in a room above the garage to prevent her from returning to her previous career as a stripper, which seems to be the only possible vocation for a woman of her, er, magnitude.

While driving to work one day, Sylvia gets whacked in the head with a shovel and instantly becomes a sex addict. Sort of. Johnny Knoxville is involved, I know that. He plays a tow-truck driver named Ray-Ray, who is a sort of Messianic figure to a group of sex addicts who all have different fetishes. Sylvia is the 12th member of his secret little group, and she now has a specific turn-on that I won't mention here.

As Ray-Ray's group increases its numbers, the neighborhood gets up in arms over the influx of perversion and tries to drive out the freaks and weirdos -- a group that now includes the once-respectable Sylvia Stickles.

Waters' peculiar brand of social satire is as ham-fisted as ever. He awkwardly twists the plot and characters in whatever directions are necessary to make his broad, MAD Magazine-style points, constantly hammering home how FUNNY and WACKY and OUTRAGEOUS it's all supposed to be. And of course there's nothing less outrageous than pointing out how outrageous you are.

Note: The NC-17 rating for this film is absurd. For all the talking about sex they do, there's no actual sex. There is nudity, but it's candid, non-sexual stuff -- someone answers the door naked, that sort of thing. The dialogue is vulgar, but no more so than many, many R-rated films. The ratings are meaningless when they are applied inconsistently. (Which they are. So they're meaningless.)

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originally posted: 09/25/04 12:40:32
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/20/13 Joe m Not Waters's best but very clever & funny. I couldn't stop laughing. Tracy Ullman was great 4 stars
8/10/10 Chad Dillon Cooper John Waters' idead of a Disney movie. 3 stars
5/08/09 Glenn Soffen I love John Waters but this move is a train wreck..... 1 stars
3/18/09 Josie Cotton is a goddess Very fucking funny! 5 stars
12/02/08 Shaun Wallner Well made. 3 stars
10/23/08 geno woow amazing 5 stars
8/27/08 damalc not that well made, but a lot of fun 3 stars
5/23/08 Bruce Paulson Not as good as his early works, but not mindumbing like Cecil B. DeMented 2 stars
2/07/07 Glenn Soffen I love John Waters early work. This film is terrible! 1 stars
8/26/05 EZ 29 and above admitted 1 stars
8/12/05 Indrid Cold John Waters strays from gritty, black humor and the results are ... not funny. 3 stars
7/03/05 MAttIFUL WOW that was PIttIFUL!!! Boring, retarded 1 stars
6/27/05 Dee Unfunny, not clever, disappointing 1 stars
6/26/05 Jeff Anderson Warped & in-your-face John Waters comedy. Ullman & Knoxville(a surprise) are a BLAST!!!!!!! 5 stars
10/05/04 nanci amusing, harmless and a bit silly. the rating is absurd - elderly couples were giggling 3 stars
9/24/04 asina another brilliant film from john waters. beautiful! 5 stars
9/24/04 Sarcastro A suitably disgusting review.Childress is wrong, though: this film wasn't average.It Sucked 1 stars
9/23/04 Ty Ford A dirty movie for the entire family!!! 4 stars
9/20/04 denny what did you expect, mamet? a silly but fun waters film; ulman was very good 3 stars
9/15/04 Ross juvenile and boring 1 stars
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  17-Sep-2004 (NC-17)
  DVD: 14-Jun-2005



Directed by
  John Waters

Written by
  John Waters

  Tracey Ullman
  Johnny Knoxville
  Chris Isaak
  Selma Blair
  Suzanne Shepherd
  Mink Stole

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