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Overall Rating

Awesome: 30.19%
Worth A Look37.74%
Average: 15.09%
Pretty Bad: 7.55%
Total Crap: 9.43%

3 reviews, 35 user ratings

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by Rob Gonsalves

"A kinder, gentler John Waters is just as funny."
4 stars

John Waters has mellowed considerably since his 1972 'Pink Flamingos,' which holds up today as both a work of outrage and a work of very demented art.

But if he's lost interest in shocking the audience, he's made up for it by refining what his movies, stripped of all the calculated offenses to human decency, have really been about all along: lovingly crafted melodramas, always set in a cartoony-grungy Baltimore, peopled with obsessive caricatures. The key word is "obsessive": Waters cherishes nothing more than people with one-track minds.

Thus Pecker, whose eponymous hero (named because of his childhood habit of picking at his food) is a compulsive shutterbug, taking snapshots of everything and everyone he sees; his little sister is a shrieking sugar addict, his older sister a cheerful bartender in a gay hot-spot; his grandmother has a talking Virgin Mary in her room; his best friend is an inveterate shoplifter; his girlfriend, a laundromat clerk, is a ferocious stickler for the rules ("You can't dye your clothes in my washers!"). Pecker has its flat-footed moments, and sometimes unfolds like a banal sitcom about the price of fame, but God is in the details, and these characters and their preoccupations could only emerge from one imagination.

Pecker (Edward Furlong, having fun with an atypically innocent role) captures whatever images catch his eye, however ugly or mundane. It doesn't take long to figure out that Pecker is autobiographical, as Waters' films since Hairspray have tended, more or less, to be. When Pecker displays his seemingly artless art, and when it's discovered by a New York art dealer (Lili Taylor, who's never looked more glam) and embraced by urban hipsters eager to demonstrate their cutting-edge taste, you know you're seeing the origin story of Waters' aesthetic and its gradual acceptance. Like Waters, Pecker makes unlikely stars of the unlovely and weird people surrounding him in Baltimore -- a preconscious artist who just shoots whatever appeals to him.

The movie is fast and warmly generous towards just about everyone on the screen -- even the art dealer, who in a lesser comedy might have been the villain, seems genuine in her fascination with Pecker's work. (She wants to make him the next Diane Arbus -- that's her obsession. In Waters territory, anyone who's obsessed with something can't be all bad.) Like other twisted directors like David Lynch and David Cronenberg, Waters grew up in a perfectly normal and generally happy family, and his respect and love for Pecker's oddball but supportive family links the movie to his previous effort, 1994's Serial Mom, where Kathleen Turner's husband and children adored her even when she started her killing sprees.

If there's a weakness this time out, it's that some of the characters -- like Martha Plimpton's outgoing bartender or Christina Ricci's laundromat Nazi -- are sketched in and then pushed to the side when we want to see more of them. I could have done without one or two scenes of the Virgin-Mary-toting grandma (Jean Scherter) or Pecker's klepto buddy (Brendan Sexton III) in favor of one long scene with Ricci, Plimpton, and Lili Taylor just sitting around talking about men. Think what Waters might have done with that. In general, though, Pecker is light and bubbly and affectionate, the kind of comedy Hollywood has forgotten how to make.

And the spirit of the late, great Divine -- the 300-pound female impersonator and one-time star of the Waters troupe -- lives on in Lauren Hulsey, who plays Little Chrissy, Pecker's fructose-crazed baby sister. Little Chrissy's tunnel-visioned quest for the next sugar high (and the substitute she eventually finds) is 100% pure Waters: she makes us laugh at our own obsessions and fetishes, just like her creator.

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originally posted: 01/15/07 12:22:31
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User Comments

7/13/17 Mia This is quite a funny film, but not my favourite John Waters production 3 stars
5/18/14 SID RUMKOWSKI True story about everyday people in Baltimore. 5 stars
12/04/08 Shaun Wallner Hilarious Movie! 4 stars
2/07/07 Glenn Soffen Nothing compares with Waters early 70's movies. Still a good one though 5 stars
1/05/04 cwlg420 Great Movie! 5 stars
6/08/03 earl hoffert my least favorite waters film--yuck 3 stars
5/29/03 brentley Pecker & Serial Mom are the only 2 John Waters movies I like. 4 stars
12/28/02 Louise I wish I was Christina Ricci so I could kiss Eddie Furlong. 5 stars
10/24/02 Charles Tatum The stupidest movie ever made 1 stars
5/17/02 Jake Just hitting average, this movie is amusing enough to watch. 3 stars
5/17/02 R.W. Welch Not exactly laser wit here, occasionally amusing. 3 stars
4/28/02 Butterbean EVERY SINGLE CHARACTER in this wreck of a movie was ANNOYING! 1 stars
1/12/02 Andrew Carden Ricci Shined Some Light Into This Boring Piece Of Trash, but It Didn't Help Much. 2 stars
11/29/01 KMG I didn't see Gregory anywhere! What a fucking rip-off! 1 stars
7/09/01 Roy Smith Thanks to this shite and Buffalo 66 a friend won't see ANY Christina Ricci movies with me 1 stars
3/15/01 Sthenno What happened?Waters' created a lame,boring,over written,film with no humour. 2 stars
2/24/01 Marie Hilarity Ensues. Art whores get played. Is great. 5 stars
11/29/00 Monday Morning Shows that brains are more important than budgets in making good movies. This is great. 4 stars
4/13/00 Rita John Waters is cool and you can't go wrong with Christina Ricci! 4 stars
4/16/99 kmk little chrissie gets my vote. very amusing all in all. 4 stars
3/16/99 the_machine Full of grace and very good 4 stars
3/03/99 Rachel Not my fave Waters flick, but definitely a good one. Laughed tons, Mee Maw. 5 stars
12/11/98 Brent Not as good as Waters' usual. 3 stars
10/29/98 Harley Some smirks, but unimpressive acting and directing. 3 stars
10/21/98 cisco mmmm...christina ricci 5 stars
10/19/98 Aint-It-Cool This is a sick, whimsical little flick that had me in tears from laughter. 5 stars
10/17/98 Mr Showbiz Amusing sideshow that shies carefully from offense and delivers a tired message. 3 stars
10/13/98 grunter worst possible review for a Water's film: just NOT shocking 2 stars
10/04/98 Negative Creep At my theatre, 3 homosexual couples and me Gave this Flick. Thumbs UP!! 4 stars
10/03/98 Johny Wasn't perfect, though but who'd expect it to be? I laughed. 3 stars
10/02/98 Jeremy Itzel john waters is a god. i go to the grocery store that they filmed one of the scenes in 5 stars
9/29/98 katherine this was a GREAT film. 5 stars
9/27/98 {{{OZ}}} Disappointing, but then Waters is hardly a genius. 2 stars
9/26/98 Miss Stress a bit dry for a john waters' flick, but overall watchable. 4 stars
9/09/98 Karl Denninger A movie with this title and having christina ricci in it is cruelly mistitled. 1 stars
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  25-Sep-1998 (R)
  DVD: 07-Sep-2004


  29-Jul-1999 (R)

Directed by
  John Waters

Written by
  John Waters

  Edward Furlong
  Christina Ricci
  Martha Plimpton
  Lili Taylor
  Lauren Hulsey

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