Movie Poster
A Dirty Shame
John Waters
Tracey Ullman, Johnny Knoxville, Selma Blair, Chris Isaak, Suzanne Shepherd
99 min.


John Waters fans have been waiting for twenty years for something not bordering on wholesome. Closer to thirty for a new NC-17. Has it been worth the wait?

Yes. A Dirty Shame is funny from beginning to end, practically every line getting chuckles from someone in the audience. And no. Funny as it is, this really isn't offensive. Though the rating is NC-17, the feel is much closer to Pecker than to Desparate Living. There's nothing here that will make any but the most prudish squeam.

But do we really want him making new Pink Flamingoss now that he's old and relatively well-off? It wouldn't really ring true if he were to try to do it guerrilla-style anymore. No, I think this is as raw as John Waters gets these days. Which is just as well, it'd be a shame for him to fake his way back into the old-style and end up looking like a half-assed Takashi Miike (in fact the ending seems to cop the opening title from Ichi the Killer).

The story follows Tracy Ullman as she recieves a concussion and joins some sort of sex-addict cult, led by Johnny Knoxville, in a sort of crusade for the holy-sex-grail. They are opposed by the Baltimore moral majority, based in a convenience store.

The religion jokes are especially funny, with Johnny Knoxville playing a sort of cunnilingual Jesus. As is a Godzilla-like terrified crowd-scene in an old-folks home. Nothing gets as sacriligious as the rosary-job/stations-of-the-cross montage in Multiple Maniacs, but he's still got a catholic-boy's sense of heresy.

As can be expected with John Waters the soundtrack is excellent, featuring a handful of obscure rockabilly and doo-wop classics. Plus a Fugs song. His incorporation of archival footage into dreamscape montages is priceless.

If they elected a new Jesus every four years, John Waters would get my vote.

Pat Jackson