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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 25.68%
Average: 21.62%
Pretty Bad: 16.22%
Total Crap: 4.05%

6 reviews, 38 user ratings

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Cecil B. Demented
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by Brian McKay

"Crappy Movie About Radicals Protesting Crappy Movies by Making Crappy Movie"
3 stars

Well, okay, it's not that crappy. In fact, it has several moments of hysterically funny brilliance. Unfortunately, it's also got plenty of moments of pure dick cheese. Of the John Waters films I've seen (and I'll admit my knowledge of his films is limited), I'd say it's the best premise with the poorest execution. It misses a lot, but the hits make it worthwhile.

Honey Whitlock (Melanie Griffith, looking damn sexy - in the first 15 minutes, anyway) is scheduled to appear at the Baltimore premiere of her latest generic Rom-com, "Some Kind of Happiness." While she's all smiles for the crowds and the camera, she's a real bitch to the help and takes great pleasure in it, especially in tormenting her assistant Libby (Ricky Lake). She thinks it's going to be another boring premiere, but she's in for a surprise.

The staff of the Senator Theater has been infiltrated by a group of radical terrorists/independent filmmakers, led by a "visionary" who calls himself Cecil B. Demented (Stephen Dorf). Along with a cliched group of misfits which include former porn star Cherish (Alicia Witt), drug-fiend Lyle (Adrian Grenier), and Satanist Goth ditz Raven (Maggie Gyllenhall), Demented and his crew hijack the premiere and kidnap Honey in the name of the "Revolution Against Bad Cinema".

They take Honey back to their "studio" and lair, a derelict movie theater in a ghetto industrial area. Demented informs Honey in short order that a)they are making an independent film that will be the ultimate protest against crappy mainstream studio movies - like the kind she makes, b)They have all taken a vow of celibacy until their film is completed ("We're horny, but we've got a vision"), and c)She is going to star in their film, whether she wants to or not.

Honey goes along under duress at first, and is especially unhappy about the imposed changes in hairstyle, wardrobe, and makeup (to sum up, she goes from looking like a 1950's pin-up goddess to a haggard bag lady). However, the more she goes along with Cecil's demented vision, the more she buys into it, until she finally takes up arms to become one of them ala Patty Hearst (not coincidentally, Patty Hearst plays the whitebread mother of one of Cecil's renegades).

The result is the kind of mishmash you'd expect in a John Waters film. Some of the characters work, some don't (the Satan girl's routine gets really old really fast. Jokes of the "Satan Rules" variety haven't been funny since the 80's, if even then). There are jokes and sight gags aplenty, with some landing solid hits and others missing with a big fat Free Willy splash. There are plenty of running jokes as well, (every time they leave the hideout their van has been repainted with a different color and logo, or every time they are being pursued they end up ducking into a movie theater), and most of the time they work. However, the film frequently slips into bouts of unbridled wackiness that are far too silly to even be respectable lowbrow comedy. The cast is competent, but unremarkable. While being in a John Waters film is certainly a change of pace for Griffith, she seems about as apathetic about the whole thing as the character she's playing. Stephen Dorf's portrayal of Demented, while often amusing, doesn't exude the necessary level of manic obsession one would expect of a cult leader. As for the rest, I think we can blame Waters' script for all the comic misfires more than the actors.

The film's final scenes take place in a drive-in during a Honey Whitlock film festival, and really, what venue could be more appropriate for a John Waters film? The ending is about ludicrous as you'd expect, but also damn funny in places. There's a lot to like in this film, and a lot of laughs. Too bad you have to sit through so much crap to get to them. In short, fans of John Waters will probably love it, while people who hate his films will definitely find this no exception. Those of us who fall in-between will just have to sift what works from what doesn't.

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originally posted: 01/22/03 12:36:45
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User Comments

3/16/11 David McMillan This movie saved my life 5 stars
12/26/09 Chad Dillon Cooper God bless John Waters 5 stars
4/21/09 Vince Decent enough. I'd watch it again. Dorff is very good here 4 stars
3/18/09 Josie Cotton is a goddess Demented forever! 4 stars
12/07/07 Adrian Loved it. 5 stars
2/07/07 Glenn Soffen WOW, What happened John? This movie sucks! 1 stars
9/22/04 Anarchist_101 Not really what I'd expected but... Not-FUCKIN'-bad! 4 stars
3/25/04 Lord Haw Haw Worth seeing for the Forrest Gump parody. 3 stars
1/15/04 Betty White Very unique Waters outing with Griffith quite good; not for everyone though. 4 stars
10/16/03 Charles Tatum Ironically, Waters' most mainstream film! 4 stars
7/29/03 Taylor Lindberg God couldn't make a better movie than this. DEMENTED FOREVER! 5 stars
7/23/03 Kath I agree with the review. There's some quality stuff here.. but it's hard to find. 3 stars
7/22/03 Cori sooo effing awesome 5 stars
6/08/03 earl hoffert certainly not the best of waters' efforts, but still better than 'pecker' 3 stars
4/24/03 Dave Good for a dumb comedy. Some great inside film humour. 3 stars
11/12/02 Vicious Toy/Electric Crotch A throwback to Waters's pre-Pink Flamingos films, only with a bigger budget and star names. 4 stars
8/07/02 I Can't Swim Waters has lost his touch. Sad to say but its true. Wanted to shoot Mel 1 stars
6/20/02 zotteLORRE this movie is plain pointless 2 stars
1/24/02 Andrew Carden This Movie Is Demented. It Would Have Been So Much Better, If Waters Hadn't Directed It. 2 stars
1/03/02 Jake This is the most unfunny Waters movie along with Cry-baby. 2 stars
1/02/02 hum good ideas but lazy " hey, same old schtick will do) 2 stars
10/16/01 Sthenno Worst of all Waters' films.Has funny moments but the idea is funnier then the actual film. 2 stars
9/21/01 Paul C. Panko Great use of subtle critisizm 4 stars
7/13/01 Roy Smith It's got Melanie Griffith. And she's good in it! Amazing! 5 stars
6/21/01 Mr. Char Great movie, especially the comment of greenlighting patch adams, that man should die 5 stars
4/15/01 GeorgE McCaul One of the few John Waters movies that I liked, go see it . 5 stars
2/21/01 Rocket Boy Hit-and-miss Waters flick, good idea not used to full potential. 4 stars
1/30/01 jen k 4 stars
1/30/01 Noble Ceverin Moodhe This movie went from zero to twisted in less than six seconds, and then it stayed that way. 4 stars
11/10/00 skye laughed hard. john waters' best (?) 4 stars
9/13/00 PJ This movie was so fucking funny, cool, true, and campy as hell, Griffith trully shines 5 stars
9/09/00 Blubberbot If you like John Waters you'll love this movie. 4 stars
9/07/00 Bill Moore Water's has lost it. "There's a fine line between clever and stupid." 2 stars
9/03/00 Jim McBride His best movie since Hairspray 4 stars
9/02/00 ALIaS An absolute satirocal masterpiece! I didnt stop laughing or thinking the whole time!! 5 stars
8/28/00 Indie It's great because it's so trashy and satirical & John Waters is being tasteless! =^( 1 stars
8/23/00 bart Hysterical parody of Patty Heart story with the real Patty. Melanie - perfect role for her. 5 stars
8/16/00 Heather See this movie or die! Guerilla filmmaking at it's best. 5 stars
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  11-Aug-2000 (R)



Directed by
  John Waters

Written by
  John Waters

  Stephen Dorff
  Melanie Griffith
  Alicia Witt
  Patty Hearst
  Adrian Grenier

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