[box cover]


Harmony Korine's Gummo is, in many ways, a Pink Flamingos for the modern age. You'll have to decide whether or not that's a complement (we're not even sure ourselves), but whether you love the film or hate it, you'll almost certainly find yourself watching the entire thing. Like the most spectacular of train wrecks, Gummo succeeds in capturing one's attention, even when we'd rather look elsewhere. Korine, the screenwriter of Larry Clark's mesmerizing Kids, recycles Clark's pseudo-documentary shooting style into a repulsive yet fascinating story of a small Ohio town full of disturbing youths. The characters include: a pair of bored teens who kill stray cats and sell the remains to a local Chinese restaurant; a pair of blossoming young women obsessed with the size of their breasts; some of the foulest-mouthed children this side of South Park; a gay black dwarf and his ever-changing relationship with his insecure white "friend"; a teen skate punk who wears huge pink bunny ears wherever he goes; and a sweet girl with Downs Syndrome whose father rents her out as a prostitute when he needs some extra cash. Korine uses broad strokes of caricature to paint many of his protagonists — most of his characters talk with ridiculously exaggerated Southern accents ("She's looking a little impregnated," observes one trashy white girl, referring to her cat), but the stereotyping is not offensive; throughout the film, Korine seems to be emphasizing the excess present in modern society, so these exaggerated voices only serve to strengthen his cause. The film is also buoyed by some amazing cinematography from Jean Yves Escoffier and one of the most eccentric scores in recent memory. (The opening credit sequence's "Cock-a-Doodle-Doo" song will haunt your nightmares for weeks. Don't say we didn't warn you.) Gummo's failing, then, is that the mix of all of the aforementioned ingredients results in a film with remarkably little to say. There are moments of terrific satire buried within the movie, but no overriding cohesiveness or driving message. In the end, Gummo is nothing so much as Kids without a point. This reviewer was also reminded of Richard Linklater's Slacker, another story whose intentions seemed stronger than the end result. Fans looking for additional insight into Gummo's message — if Korine even intended one — will have to keep searching, as New Line's DVD edition of the movie is about as bare-bones as one can get, with not even a theatrical trailer provided, much less an explanation. The only extra feature is an eight-minute montage of production photographs, with running commentary supplied by Korine. Be warned, however — virtually nothing of note is said, and the director's weary, disinterested tone reveals the extent of his boredom with the entire project. With that kind of an attitude, thank God he didn't record a feature-length commentary. Beautiful anamorphic widescreen transfer (1.85:1). Snap-case.
—Joe Barlow