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Overall Rating
3.98

Awesome: 24.19%
Worth A Look61.29%
Average: 6.45%
Pretty Bad: 4.84%
Total Crap: 3.23%

4 reviews, 38 user ratings


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Serial Mom
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by Dr. Isaksson

"Maybe Mom's Mental!"
4 stars

John Waters' 1994 comedy "Serial Mom" is certainly a departure from the sweet teen flicks "Hairspray" and "Cry Baby" which paid homage to the innocent beach/dance movies of the 50's and 60's. Waters was ready to go back to the kind of films he had become infamous for and decided on a story that centered on an average upper class Mom, who has definately invested too much time reading Martha Stewart magazines and watching Oprah. This ideal setting of a suburban housewife who does it all is something many women try to strive for but Waters turns this seemingly harmless endeavor on it's head and shows the dangers of those who become overly obsessed with recycling, keeping a clean house, serial killers and Barry Manilow.

Beverly Sutphin is model citizen, and the ideal wife and Mom. Much like the mothers that starred in the sitcoms of the 1950's, she is always perfectly groomed and seems to carry the title of domestic goddess without any effort whatsoever. She keeps an immaculate home, is happily married to her husband (Sam Waterston) and has two, semi-normal teenage children, Misty (Ricki Lake) and Chip (Matthew Lillard). However, being the best mother and housewife is not always as easy as it looks on TV. Beverly is having too much trouble getting past her son's friend Scotty (Justin Whalin), who refuses to wear his seat belt and her neighbor Rosemary (Mary Jo Kattlen), who doesn't recycle her tin cans. Another neighbor, Dottie Hinkel (played by the legendary Dreamlander Mink Stole), is definitely on Beverly's shit list for stealing a parking space from her in front of a Jo Ann Fabrics one afternoon. These absolutely horrific faults in the people around Beverly are becoming too difficult to ignore and the quest for domestic perfection has forced her to take action. What other choice has she to rid herself, and the world, of such disagreeable people than to kill them? It all makes sense, right?

Unknown to her entire family, hidden inside her bird watching books and under her bed, Beverly is collecting photos of Charles Manson, corresponding through letters to Richard Speck and has taken up reading books about murder and serial killing that bear such titles as 'Urge to Kill' and 'Hunting Humans'. Soon enough the bodies start piling up and every finger points to Beverly Sutphin. With a family to look after not to mention a trash can full of tin cans, bottles and newspapers to sort through for recycling, what's a loving mother to do? The remainder of the film plays out in true John Waters' fashion with such a wacked out sense of fun that half the time that, as a viewer, I wasn't sure if I was supposed to laugh or feel scared. With Serial Mom swinging a butcher knife around, I was almost certain that all this woman needed was a filthy hockey mask.

Serial Mom is really a step up for Waters who seemed to be evolving as quite a good director since the days of Multiple Maniacs and Pink Flamingos. The direction here is wonderful and the camera really catches every little nuance and expression of Beverly's increasing madness. I also think that the film is by far the best LOOKING John Waters' work, with beautiful cinematography and well edited action and chase sequences. The music score is a light and a great addition to the portrayal of chaos amongst such suburban domestic bliss. It plays a good part in heigtening the humourous moments as well the dark ones. Another thing I have to give note to is that, in a very short time, we gain an insight into the Sutphin family without much of the meandering John Waters dialogue. Don't get me wrong, I totally love the meandering Dreamlander dialogue, but here it would have distracted from the intricate murder set ups. One complaint which has always kind of bugged me about some of John's films is that even though the story moves along, there is that one point close to the end of his films where the story seems to teeter out a bit and you are hoping that the cheep gags keep coming to even out the slack. Which they just manage to do here.

Kathleen Turner seems like such an obvious choice to play Beverly Sutphin, but then again, it's not so obvious considering that for most of her career she played the role of the smokey voiced, sultry, sex goddess in danger. But she has no problem taking on the crazed Waters' dialogue and delivers an amazing performance. Every flick of her head, rase of an eyebrow and blank innocent stare is performed and captured perfectly. And by the end you are almost rooting for Serial Mom to get off of the murder charges. She's that much fun. The rest of the cast pull off their roles just as well. Sam Waterston is funny as Beverly's constantly frantic husband. It's great to see Ricki Lake again playing the desperate and dateless daughter Misty. Even Matthew Lillard fails to annoy as the gore-loving video store working son, Chip. Wonderful cameos fill out the cast including Warhol legend Brigid Berlin, Waters mainstay Patricia Hearst and even Suzanne Somers  To sum this up, I'd say that it was a big gamble to take on a film about a serial killing mother but in the end it all came off with some decent laughs.

(A LITTLE STORY...)
I saw Serial Mom at the theater when I was a teenager and I distinctly remember a couple sitting behind us. They were twenty somethings who dressed very class conscience and defiantly had the 'LL Bean' image down pat. in fact, most of the people there seemed to be this class of person. The guy was a loud mouth who thought everyone should have to listen to him talk to his girlfriend (which went on for about 20 minutes before the film started.) She, on the other hand, said nothing and just before the lights when dim he said loudly, "If this movie sucks we are walking out." Needless to say, throughout the entire movie he and his girlfriend laughed louder than anyone and this was an uproarious crowd! Everyone was just having a blast. I think perhaps one of the most joyous and appreciative bunch I had ever enjoyed a film with! I never would've believed this could be possible but it was.
Very cool.

Serial Mom is not a film I could watch time and time again. Still, it is a very well crafted comedy representing the latter phase of John Waters' 30+ years directing career. As much as I want to give it 4 stars, I have to take it down to *** 1/2 Stars

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=753&reviewer=296
originally posted: 05/15/04 09:23:14
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User Comments

1/10/13 Michael Hernandez best film ever a must watch Kathleen Turner reigns supreme 5 stars
8/10/10 Chad Dillon Cooper Think of June Cleaver with PMS. 4 stars
11/13/09 PAUL SHORTT TOO REALISTICALLY GORY TO REALLY BE FUNNY 2 stars
3/18/09 Josie Cotton is a goddess One of Water's weakest efferts. 2 stars
2/10/07 Heather I rewinded quite a few times during this one. Good stuff. 4 stars
2/07/07 Glenn Soffen Not one of John Waters best but still enjoyable 3 stars
2/03/07 David Pollastrini saw it but have no memory so it must have sucked 2 stars
10/22/06 Diane Kathleen Turner is hilarious in this film, which always has me burst into laughing fits! 5 stars
5/12/06 tatum Turner and cast are a hoot 4 stars
8/30/05 julia craver it was the shit! 5 stars
4/15/05 Raymond Montoya great Movie! 4 stars
4/15/05 Morgan Thornburgh Kathleen Turner's Magnum Opus 5 stars
10/06/04 Andrew Lovely Kathleen in a lovely role 5 stars
7/24/04 MCGUIRE worth a look 4 stars
5/16/04 Idiot's Mouth Turner=HOT! Very mannish. Waters=suckass. Very uninspired. Movie=decent. Suburban decay,etc 3 stars
3/19/04 da hood "listen to your filthy mouth you fuckin whore!" 5 stars
3/18/04 LIAM JACKSON good film. i've always wanted to murder someone in a horrible way! 5 stars
12/07/03 Samuel Matthew Lillard plays the same part here as in 'Scream' 3 stars
11/13/03 jimmy d cool but i got shot at the theater. 4 stars
6/08/03 earl hoffert one of waters' best mainstream efforts 5 stars
4/29/03 Buko Kathleen is at her best! This movie is simply super comic! 5 stars
2/12/03 brentley 1of the few Waters flicks I like. If u don't like that comment, then you're a pussy face! 4 stars
11/11/02 Vicious Toy/Electric Crotch Best post-Hairspray John Waters flick. Kathleen Turner is excellent in this black comedy! 5 stars
5/17/02 Jake "Ohhhwee...Ohhhwee" K. Turner is scary! This movie was bittersweet fun. 4 stars
3/13/02 Betty Samson She probably thinks that trick-or-treat's an airplane! 3 stars
2/01/02 Don Hite Surprising hilarious! I laughed my ass off! 5 stars
9/29/01 Andrew Carden Very Funny, 100% Dark Comedy. 4 stars
8/14/01 Bada Bing Crosby The most egregious piece of shit ever committed to celluloid 1 stars
6/09/01 Serial_Monk_the_Jawbreaker Mouth clasping / rolling-in-the-aisles FUNNY! Great sense of humor and gore is always a +! 5 stars
5/03/01 MJTAustin Kathleen Turner should have been nominated for a few awards for this role. 5 stars
4/17/01 viking maliciously funny. "Brady Bunch" meets "Psycho" !!! 4 stars
3/20/01 contrite deity This is the BEST movie I have ever seen.ANYONE should check it out,by far the funniest film 5 stars
2/21/01 Rocket Boy Exquiste bad taste, yet tamer than most of Waters' films. 4 stars
6/26/99 hum black and funny. 4 stars
4/11/99 Alonzo (alc311@hotmail.com) pretty good movie, funny courtroom seen, not exactly waters' best 5 stars
1/25/99 Chloe Marie Elestenogoph (clatter@hotmail.com) Aaauuugh, this sucks!! 1 stars
11/23/98 little jerry Waters LITE but very likable & worth seeing just for Kathleen Turner.What a woman! 4 stars
9/16/98 Lonatic If you like dark comedy then this one is 'killer'! 8+ outa 10 for me. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  13-Apr-1994 (R)

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