10 November 1999 | batzi8m1
This was my first John Waters movie, and it opened with scratch and sniff cards. Each "spot" had a color and number and when the appropriate scene arrived we had the privilege of smelling what was on screen. Devine's character had an odor fetish and was constantly spraying air freshener, while a nefarious plot was instigated to drive her insane by planting offensively smelly things like gym sox, dead fish etc for her to find at home.
Her husband runs an adult cinema. Her son, based on the Baltimore Stomper, a true character, sniffs industrial solvents, stalks women with cute shoes and feet, and then stomps on them with his combat boots. The daughter, obviously the model for Christine Applegate's character in Married With Children, is the high school slut that dances on tables for quarters. And Mom worries about fresh scents.
With these subplots to the main plot, it should be obvious that plot resolution and character development are not the main attractions in a John Waters movie. The caricature of society and its stereotypes is his game, and the best moment of the movie has to be when the TV news camera is in the face of one of the Baltimore Stomper's victims as she is being carried to the ambulance on a strecher. The victim's on camera stream of obscene invectives against the callous media was one of the great moments of the movie because it was such a refreshing expression of the common person's real disgust and frustration with tabloid evening news and a culture that trivializes human suffering. Juxtapose a broken instep with the main character's insufferable pain of finding a smelly sock and you have the theme of this movie. Even the fairytale resolutions to the problems are a hilarious sendup of 80's America.
If you want to see what makes John Waters such a cult hero, but would find Female Trouble or Pink Flamingos too offensive, this was his first attempt to bridge the gap to the more accessible films he made later, while still having enough of the gross-out quality for a good laugh riot.
(Serial Mom will be on TV the weekend after Veteran's Day, and it is another very accessible glimpse into the mind of Mr. Waters.)