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September 2004

By Julian Roman

A Dirty Shame

Distributor: Fine Line Features
Director: John Waters
Producers: Ted Hope & Christine Vachon
Screenwriter: John Waters
Composer: George S. Clinton
Cast: Tracey Ullman, Chris Isaak, Johnny Knoxville, Selma Blair, & Mink Stole



John Waters is in a class by himself. His schlocky B-movies are either funny as hell or god awful. This film unfortunately falls into the latter category. It is ninety minutes of pure and unadulterated cinematic torture. I can honestly say that sitting through this movie was hands down the worst theater experience I've had in some time. I would rather sit through a triple feature of Catwoman, Van Helsing, and the last Hillary Duff movie than be forced to see A Dirty Shame again.

The sad thing is that the movie held such promise. Tracy Ullman as a depraved nymphomaniac, Selma Blair as her slutty exhibitionist daughter with watermelon sized breasts, Johnny Knoxville as a Zen inspired sex fiend, an NC-17 rating, you can't go wrong. Hopes were high for this film. John Waters was supposed to take us to new comic heights of depravity and lewdness. Instead he cranks out a shill, unfunny film that falls far short of the commotion it created. Where's the outrage? What's so offensive about this movie? It's just plain stupid. People turn into sex addicts when they get concussions. That's the plot and it goes nowhere. All you get is a gyrating Tracy Ullman and a David Hasselhoff cameo.

The most disappointing part of A Dirty Shame is that it actually has a message. It's like an NC-17 after school special about accepting people with different sexual preferences. What happened to the tactless, in your face, give the finger to mainstream cinema attitude of John Waters? It's really not evident here. A Dirty Shame is basically a crude morality play. It lacks the shock value that made Waters famous. Granted, you'd be disgusted if you walked in without a clue, but that's par for the course in a John Waters film.

Waters needs to get back to his glory days. He's made three bad films in a row. A Dirty Shame, Cecil B. Demented, and Pecker don't hold a candle to Cry Baby, Hairspray, and Polyester. He needs to wipe some of that polish off and come up with something really of the wall. His early films were stomach churning, but actually funny. A Dirty Shame is tolerable and boring, a real disappointment.