Cecil B. Demented

Evoking without matching such early provocations as Desperate Living, John Waters, triumphantly remaining (as always) in Baltimore, pays tribute to his origins as an independent rebel. By recounting how a bitchy Hollywood diva (Melanie Griffith) comes into her own after being kidnapped by the title director (Stephen Dorff) and his gang of terrorist misfits and ordered to star in their outlaw opus, he makes an obvious reference to Patty Hearst, who’s around for a cameo. Funnier than Pecker but a far cry from the best of Waters’s Divine movies (i.e., Female Trouble and Hairspray), this substitutes a string of escalating outrages for a plot that goes anywhere. There’s an overall thinness despite a lot of good-natured fun. With Alicia Witt, Adrian Grenier, Larry Gilliard Jr., and Maggie Gyllenhaal. 88 min. (JR)

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