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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Cecil B. Demented
Cecil B. Demented
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Review by Aaron Beierle | posted January 18, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

The latest film from usually controversial director John Waters doesn't quite reach its intended goals, or do that well in getting across what point its trying to make. It's corny and occasionally funny, but in trying to bash the studio system, it tends to be less than subtle - not that Waters has ever been subtle. The problem is that the film isn't much better than the kind of films the movie is trying to make fun of. Anyways, "Cecil" opens by introducing us to star Honey Whitlock (Melanie Griffith) a spoiled big-time star who treats her assistants like garbage while seeming chirpy and perky on the outside.

Within what seems like a matter of a few minutes, Honey is kidnapped by demented filmmaker Cecil B. Demented(Stephen Dorff of "Blade") and his looney filmmaking crew. They want her to star along with his group of workers in their new movie. Some of the bits are occasionally funny, joking about film production and the roles that people play, but there's nothing too interesting about the dialogue. Much of the movie seems to be rather full of curse words, not that I mind curse words. The only point they seem to have in this film is empty "shocks" - not only that, but they become irritating as there's nothing really else to this film besides what's on the thin surface.

I suppose that this may have been more interesting if tons and tons of movies that made fun of the studio system hadn't come before it, but probably not. The performances aren't that great, and at 88 minutes it doesn't really go too far with any of its targets. Dorff yells, rather unconvincingly, his slogans about what's wrong with Hollywood. I think the only time that I had a solid laugh throughout the movie was during a scene where Dorff and crew infiltrate a showing of "Patch Adams" because, as we all know, "Patch Adams" is the supply of endless jokes. Another mildly funny bit is when Dorff and crew take over the set of the "Forrest Gump" sequel. These jokes don't work as well as they could have because the film really doesn't have much of a sense of comedic timing.

Not only is the film unfunny and unsuccessful at what it's attempting to spoof, it's also shrill and annoying. The score is loud and blaring; there isn't one character who's the least bit engaging or watchable. If anything, though, the entire thing just seems like Waters and cast having fun and goofing off. There's really not much of a plot here, and the audience doesn't seem to be let in on the joke.

"Demented" is quite a dissapointment, as I'd think Waters would have had more to say about the Hollywood system that hasn't been said far better in several other recent films. I still go back again and again to Mamet's writing for "Wag The Dog", as the one film that really had some very sharp and funny comments about how filmmaking works.


The DVD

VIDEO: Artisan presents "Cecil B. Demented" in a very solid 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer that often looks excellent. Sharpness and detail are both very strong, with the exception of some dark scenes which begin to look slightly less well-defined. There's really a minimal amount of flaws throughout the entire presentation. I only saw a couple of small instances of print flaws - just a couple of speckles, but nothing distracting. Pixelation isn't noticed, but some minor edge enhancement is. Colors are generally subdued, although some scenes present brighter colors. This is generally a fine presentation, although not particularly remarkable.

SOUND: "Cecil" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, but the audio presentation doesn't really require any sort of major activity. The majority of the film's audio comes from the front speakers, and consists of the unpleasant score and dialogue. Surround activity is pretty minimal, with only a few occasional uses that aren't too effective. Dialogue is easily heard and clear, although somewhat edgy at times.

MENUS:: If I can say one thing about Artisan's work, they always do present creative and fun menus for their titles. After a goofy fake menu, the real menu pops up and contains animation. Sub-menus are also animated.

EXTRAS:

Canned Ham: Cecil B. Demented: Like HBO's "First Look", sometimes Comedy Central presents "Making Of" featurettes that turn out to be pretty amusing and entertaining. "Cecil"'s documentary presents interviews with director Waters and the cast as they talk about what it was like to work with one another and some of the elements of the story. Moderately watchable stuff, maybe worth a look.

Commentary: This is a commentary track from director John Waters, who is reportedly a big DVD fan. His commentary here is moderately entertaining as he talks about the obstacles of making the movie and what it was like to work with the actors. He also provides quite a few funny jokes throughout the movie and amusing stories from the set.

Ads: 2 Trailers (one for all audiences and the other an R-rated trailer, both in Dolby Digital 5.1 audio) and a TV Spot.

Also: Cast and crew bios, production notes.

Final Thoughts: I only liked one or two scenes in "Cecil B. Demented" - I found the rest of it to be a pretty tedious and dissapointing 88 minutes. Artisan's DVD provides fine audio & video quality along with some interesting extras but that still isn't enough to recommend "Cecil". If you're a fan of the movie, you'll enjoy the DVD - otherwise, I'd skip it.

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