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Cecil B. Demented

In this standard-issue John Waters comedy, Stephen Dorff stars in the title role, the obsessed leader of a band of teenaged "outlaw cinema" terrorists willing to live and die by Demented's idealism and anti-Hollywood guerilla filmmaking. Crowning himself the "enemy of family cinema" and the "ultimate auteur," Demented sets out to prove that nothing — not the Establishment, the law, random fatalities, the enforced celibacy of his merry band, or in one scene even the laws of physics — will stop him from completing his "ultimate reality" project, a violence-packed cinema verité thriller called Raving Beauty. To achieve his vision, he coordinates the kidnapping of Honey Whitlock (Melanie Griffith), our easiest stereotype of a waning Tinseltown A-list star: haughty, coarse, self-absorbed, bitchy to the hilt, and pleasant only when "on." Demented forces her to star in their no-budget production. Predictably yet still inexplicably, Whitlock ends up sympathizing with their outlaw cause, becoming one of them and achieving a type of fame her agent never had in mind. Along the way, Waters lampoons mainstream cinema, the cult of celebrity, the forced-conformity Hollywood machine that spoons out treacly crapfilms such as Patch Adams and Forrest Gump, and the presumed self-indulgence of the indie filmmaking scene itself. All are easy targets, making this excursion frequently labored and self-righteous.

Artisan's DVD release sports an anamorphic widescreen transfer and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. A genial Waters provides the commentary track (he seemed to be having a good time in the making of it). Also included are Comedy Central's Canned Ham behind-the-scenes special, theatrical trailers, cast and crew info, and production notes. Keep-case.

—Mark Bourne

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