`Cry-Baby' Is Good, Old-Fashioned Fun

XXX ``Cry-Baby,'' with Johnny Depp, Amy Locane, Susan Tyrrell, Iggy Pop, Ricki Lake, Traci Lords, Polly Bergen, Troy Donahue, Patricia Hearst. Written and directed by John Waters. Aurora, Crossroads, Everett Mall, Factoria, Grand Cinemas Alderwood, Kirkland Parkplace, Renton Village, SeaTac, Uptown. Rated ``PG-13,'' due to language, French kissing.


``I'm so tired of being good,'' sighs Allison Vernon-Williams (Amy Locane) as she makes goo-goo eyes at bad boy Wade Walker, aka Cry-Baby (Johnny Depp, of ``21 Jump Street'' television fame).

Cry-Baby is as interested in Allison as Allison is in him. The only problem is Allison is a ``square'' and Cry-Baby is a ``hep'' and cool ``drape.'' Can a goody-two-shoes and a proto-beatnik find true happiness together? Will their ``drape'' and ``square'' friends even give them a chance?

Those are the big questions in John (``Hairspray'') Waters' latest film, a variation on ``Romeo and Juliet'' set in 1954 Baltimore.

From its use of the old Universal logo (a prop plane circling the globe) through its opening credits (an inoculation extravaganza in a high-school gym) to its ``Rebel Without a Cause''-inspired finale, ``Cry-Baby'' is goofy, slapdash fun, featherlight and rapier-sharp.

Not everything in it works. But, with so much in it - a cast to end all casts, for one thing - there's hardly any time to wait until

Patty Hearst (yes, the Patty Hearst) turns up as a school-crosswalk guard, or rock legend Iggy Pop turns up ``buck naked'' taking a bath in a galvanized washtub.

Other names in this peculiar assortment include: Troy Donahue, Joey Heatherton, Willem Dafoe, Joe Dellasandro, David Nelson, chubby Ricki Lake (from ``Hairspray'') and Mink Stole, veteran of nine Waters' films.

``Cry-Baby'' in some ways picks up where ``Hairspray'' left off. It's another youth-movie parody - a tongue-in-cheek expose of ``the throbbing, searing world of yesterday's juvenile delinquents,'' as the press kit puts it - set in the 1950s this time, rather than '60s.

While it's the first film he's made since his leading lady/man, Divine, died, Waters' buoyantly subversive spirits seem undiminished. The script has a little more edge than did ``Hairspray'' - hence its ``PG-13'' rating.

Among the obstacles to the star-crossed lovers' passion for each other are: Mrs. Vernon-Williams (Polly Bergen), Allison's stern grandmother and proprietress of the R.S.V.P. charm school; Baldwin (Stephen Mailer), Alison's ``square'' but aggressive boyfriend; and Lenora (Kim Webb), Cry-Baby's jealous ex-girlfriend.

While drapes and squares battle it out at the Turkey Point Swim Club (the ``Redneck Riviera,'' Mrs. Vernon-Williams calls it), Cry-Baby and Allison exchange secrets, such as why he's afraid of electricity and what awful thing happened to her parents.

Cheering on the romance from the sidelines are Cry-Baby's freaky grandmother Ramona Ricketts (Susan Tyrell) and gang-member Hatchet-Face (Kim McGuire) - a knife-wielding, leather-jacketed ``drapette'' who helps give Allison ``a bad girl beauty makeover.''

The music is an homage to '50s doo-wop and rockabilly. For performers at ``square'' dances, there are tartan cummerbunds. For ``drapes'' in jail, there are delightfully cartoonish prison-stripe pajamas, with traditional ball-and-chain.

It all adds up to zany, wide-eyed, quintessential Waters havoc - the ``kinder, gentler'' 1990s brand, perhaps. But the genuine article, nonetheless. Enjoy.