Follow TV Tropes


Film / Cry-Baby

Go To

Cry-Baby is a 1990 satirical teen romantic comedy film written and directed by John Waters.

Set in The '50s, it tells the classic story of Star-Crossed Lovers"square" Allison Vernon-Williams (Amy Locane) falls for Wade "Cry-Baby" Walker (Johnny Depp), leader of the local "drapes" in their Baltimore neighborhood — and the upheaval their romance causes between the hillbilly drapes and the uptight squares.

Did we mention it's a musical?

Cry-Baby provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Action Dress Rip: The motorcycle stunt in the climax.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The stage musical transforms Cry-Baby's would-be girlfriend Lenora into a bona-fide Stalker with a Crush. It also claims that Cry-Baby's parents were sent to the electric chair for being suspected Communist spies and that Baldwin's grandfather was responsible for it happening. It also includes scenes of Wanda, Pepper and Hatchet-Face in a girls reform school, while Cry-Baby and Dupree are in jail.
  • Adrenaline Makeover: What the drapettes do for Allison. It mainly involves Letting Her Hair Down, and giving her a pair of skin-tight pedal-pushers and a bustier top.
  • Affectionate Parody: Of 1950s juvenile delinquent flicks, and the jukebox musicals of the same era.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Quote Allison when she sees Cry-Baby, "I am so tired of being good."
  • Alliterative Name: Wade Walker. Both names mean "walk".
  • Babies Ever After: In the film's end, Pepper gives birth to a baby boy and her boyfriend proposes to her, which she happily accepts.
  • Be a Whore to Get Your Man: Averted, with Lenora, and Allison, who Cry-Baby thought was cute even before her sexy makeover.
  • Berserk Button: Lightning drives Cry-Baby crazy because both of his parents died by electricity. Baldwin even rubs this fact in by revealing that it was his grandpa who set off the chair that killed them.
  • *Bleep*-dammit!: Invoked in the original theatrical release, as Waters was only allowed one F-word so as to not compromise the more accessible PG-13 rating. That one unbleeped instance turns into a Funny Moment:
    Wanda: Would you just get me the [BLEEP] out of here?!
    Mrs. Woodward: What's [BLEEP] mean, Hector?
    Mr. Woodward: Oh, Meg, it's just a teen nonsense word Wanda uses to make herself feel all grown up.
    Mrs. Woodward: Your Honor, can we take Wanda the fuck home?
    (Court audience and reporters gasp and laughs)
  • Butter Face: Played with, the aptly named Hatchetface is introduced in the classic "gag" manner in the opening scene, where two hoodlums standing in line behind her waiting to get vaccinations to reach for her attractively swaying bottom-only to be shocked when she turns around and reveals her flattened nose, crossed eyes, and horrible teeth. Averted in the rest of the film, though she has a very happy relationship with one of the male characters of the film, and none of the Drapes treat her any differently than the gorgeous Wanda, played by Traci Lords.
  • Camp: Well, it is John Waters, after all.
  • Car Fu: The "chicken" showdown at the climax.
  • Chick Magnet: Cry-Baby, of course.
  • Conveniently an Orphan: Both Allison and Cry-Baby; her parents were killed in two different plane crashes, while his father was the Alphabet Bomber, and was executed in the electric chair, as well as his wife, when she tried to intervene on his behalf.
  • Cool Old Lady: Although initially as formal and uptight as the other Squares, Mrs. Vernon-Williams becomes more of this as the film progresses.
  • Crowd Song: The Whiffles' cross-town performance of the Bunny Hop, "Please Mr. Jailer" and "High School Hellcats".
  • Damsel in Distress: During the Chicken race, the Whiffles force Mrs. Vernon-Williams in their car.
  • Dartboard of Hate: Ramona has a dartboard with Mrs. Vernon-Williams's face painted on it.
  • Dark Is Not Evil / Light Is Not Good: The Drapes and Squares, respectively.
  • Delinquents
  • Disappeared Dad: The father of Pepper's children is unknown and, as far as we know, nowhere to be seen.
  • Drum Bathing: We first see Iggy Pop bathing in a little metal tub in the yard - he cheerfully exclaims "Ya caught me in my birthday suit!"
  • Embarrassing First Name: Wade "Cry-Baby" Walker never goes by his first name.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Well, more like White Cannot Comprehend Hip.
  • Face of a Thug: Mona, aka "Hatchet-Face".
  • Felony Misdemeanor:
    • "Electricity makes me INSANE!"
    • "Are you aware that Negroes were present at tonight's disturbance?"
  • The '50s: The film takes place in 1954.
  • Freudian Excuse: Cry-Baby has to do one rotten thing every day to avenge his parents, both of whom died in the electric chair.
  • The Fundamentalist: Boy howdy. Milton's parents.
  • Game of Chicken: In the conclusion, Cry-Baby challenges Baldwin to a game of chicken, but with both of them riding on the rooftop of their respective cars. Baldwin forces Mrs. Vernon-Williams into his car for her betrayal, telling her that she was born a Square and will die a Square.
    • This was foreshadowed in the beginning, where Mrs. Vernon-Williams almost collides head-on with another car.
  • Generation Xerox: Cry-Baby's and Pepper's parents and grandparents could qualify for this. Milton's extremely conservative parents and Wanda's Stepford Smiler parents largely avert this.
  • Giant Medical Syringe: The students are shown in the film's opening getting their school vaccinations with large needles.
  • Girl Posse: The Cry-Baby girls, to a degree.
  • Heel–Face Turn: The judge and Mrs. Vernon-Williams let Cry-Baby and several of the other drapes out of jail at the end. Lenora also sides with the squares for a shot at redemption.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Milton and Hatchet-Face
  • "I Am" Song: "King Cry-Baby" and "High-School Hellcats".
  • Informed Attribute: The Drapes' bad, evil ways. We hear that Hatchet-Face is so tough she coulda eaten nails for breakfast, that Pepper's pregnant but she fights as good as any man, that Milton is "young, stupid and mean", and the song "High-School Hellcats" says that all of Cry-Baby's gang is "Friends of the devil, twice as mean", but we never see any evidence of this, except the way they dress.
  • Incest Subtext: During the sweethearts dance to '50s love songs and everyone is paired up and making out with their significant other, Pepper's kids Snaredrum and Suzy Q are seen dancing together to a love song. Though this would be justified since there are no other kids around for them to dance with.
  • Ironic Name: Lenora Frigid seems very open to flirting with Anything That Moves.
  • Jerkass: Allison's boyfriend, Baldwin.
  • Kick the Dog: Many "square" characters do this to Cry-Baby and the other drapes, but only Baldwin seems to get real joy out of it.
  • Large Ham: Most of the cast, but especially Johnny Depp, particularly during his Freudian Excuse monologue.
  • Mad Bomber: Wade "Cry Baby" Walker's father was the "Alphabet Bomber", who bombed buildings in alphabetical order. He got the electric chair.
  • Mama Bear: A heavily pregnant Pepper fights for her kids when they get taken away to an orphanage.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: It's never known whether Pepper's current boyfriend is the father of her unborn baby or if a previous boyfriend is. Either way, he's happy to help her raise her three kids together.
  • Make-Out Point: There's one at Turkey Point, where Allison learns to French-kiss. In the stage play, the set-up is used at the backdrop for the tender ballad "Girl, Can I Kiss You (With Tongue)."
  • Manly Tears: Cry-Baby is known for his ability to shed a single tear.
  • The New Rock & Roll: As the film is set in 1953, it's not Satanic yet, just trashy "race music".
  • Nothing but Hits: Largely averted, except with the country club's talent show performances of "A Teenage Prayer" and "Sh-Boom".
  • Politically Correct History: Sort of. Most of the Squares are openly prejudiced against black people, but the Drapes appear to have no problem with them.
  • Pregnant Badass: Pepper who manages to put up a tough fight in times of danger even before she gives birth in the film's climax.
    • Of course, this may be because "regular/moderate" smoking takes years if not DECADES to take effect.
  • Sad-Times Montage: "Teardrops are Falling" includes Allison drinking a jar full of her own tears.
  • Scatting: The stage musical's song "Baby Baby Baby Baby (Baby Baby)" parodies the scat-like lyrics in rockabilly music.
  • Screen-to-Stage Adaptation
  • Seemingly-Wholesome '50s Girl: Allison eventually develops into one of these. She remains more or less her sweet self, but now she's a delinquent's girlfriend, and more inclined to less conservative outfits.
  • Separated by the Wall: Allison and Cry-Baby gyrate on opposite sides of the glass barrier in "Please, Mr. Jailer".
  • Shout-Out
    • Breaking Cry-Baby out of jail and Pepper's kids out of the orphanage pays tribute to The Benny Hill Show.
    • Depp's performance also evokes a young Elvis Presley.
  • Single Tear: The secret to Cry-Baby's sex appeal. Aside from being played by Johnny Depp, of course.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Played straight with Cry-Baby, but averted with Hatchet-Face's parents, one of whom ends up in an iron lung.
  • Smoking Is Not Cool: While the rest of the teenage Drapes, Squares and townspeople smoke cigarettes vicariously showing little to no effects, Hatchet-Face's mother is shown to be quite a heavy smoker, coughing violently even though she continues to smoke the cigarettes. This soon results in her being put in an iron lung machine for support while she and her husband show no shame for their actions and instead put the blame on their only daughter Hatchet-Face in front of the whole courtroom.
  • Speaking Like Totally Teen: The former Trope Namer is "Get a Load of that Square", almost quoted word for word.
  • Spinning Newspaper
  • Stalker with a Crush: Lenora. Made even more blatant in The Musical.
  • That Nostalgia Show
  • That Reminds Me of a Song: Almost all the songs start like this, particularly in the second half.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Mrs. Vernon-Williams gives a brief and well-deserved one to Lenora for her behavior
    Mrs. Vernon-Williams: You may be a square Lenora, but you're still a tramp!
    • Pepper gives her a similar one, saying that her brother likes his girls "bad, not cheap."
  • Trash Landing: Hatchet-Face and her boyfriend escape the police chasing after them by diving into a large garbage truck and hiding inside of the garbage while the truck drives them away.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Pepper keeps a switchblade in her bra.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: On one of the deleted scenes.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Pepper's son, Snare-Drum, and her daughter, Susie-Q.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Baldwin and the Whiffles' reactions to "colored" music and drapes, in general.
  • Window Love: "Please, Mr. Jailer", a song and dance number which the director says was inspired by peep shows and gloryholes.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Lenora pretends to be pregnant with Cry-Baby's child to split him and Allison up, and Baldwin does the same when harassing the Drapes at Turkey Point: "They beat me and kicked me; all because I love you."
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: The prison guards to the Drapes.
  • You Put the "X" in "XY": Ramona says, "You put the T in tough!"