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John Waters remains the undisputed king of bad taste, but the years have softened the approach of the outrageous director, allowing his more recent films to find success in the realm of mainstream cinema. It is the kinder, gentler Water’s who has crafted deftly delightful PECKER ($25), a culture clash between the denizens of a small Baltimore community and the New York art world. While PECKER may not be as outrageous as John Water’s earlier works such as PINK FLAMINGOS, FEMALE TROUBLE or even POLYESTER, this film is not going to appeal to every taste. PECKER contains some frontal nudity and homosexual humor that is certain to make some individuals uncomfortable. However, since I love anything that isn’t politically correct, I found PECKER to be a joyous ode to bad taste.

PECKER stars Edward Furlong as Pecker, a Baltimore teenager who, with a second hand camera that he found in a thrift store, becomes the latest overnight sensation of the art world. It is Pecker’s photographs of his slightly off-center relatives, friends and neighbors, which catch the eye of a New York art dealer that thrust him into the limelight. However, Pecker soon finds that his instant fame has a number of drawbacks that throw his simple Baltimore existence into total chaos. Where he was once just a crazy kid with a camera that everyone ignored when he took pictures, Pecker now finds that being a famous photographer has limited his opportunities to create art.

PECKER also stars Christina Ricci as Pecker’s girlfriend Shelly, who runs the local Laundromat and rules over it with an iron fist. Lili Taylor portrays Rorey Wheeler, the art dealer who discovers Pecker. Mary Kay Place plays Pecker’s supportive mother Joyce. Martha Plimpton is wonderfully over-the-top as Pecker’s older sister Tina, who works as an emcee in gay strip club. Lauren Hulsey is terrific as Little Chrissy, Pecker’s hyperactive, sugar addicted younger sister. Brendan Sexton III puts a humorous spin on Matt, Pecker’s shoplifting best friend and sometime assistant. Jean Schertler delivers the film’s most hilarious performance as Memama; Pecker’s Virgin Mary obsessed grandmother who supplies the voice of her own personal miracle. The cast of PECKER also features Patty Hearst, Maureen Fisher, Cindy Sherman, Greg Gorman, Bess Armstrong, Mark Joy and Mink Stole.

New Line Home Video has made PECKER available on DVD wide screen only. The good looking Letterboxed presentation restores the film’s 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio, in addition to offering the 16:9 anamorphic component for wide screen televisions. As you might expect from a New Line DVD, the transfer for PECKER is clean, sharp and nicely detailed. Color reproduction is also very agreeable. Flesh tones are natural throughout the presentation, while the film’s garish color scheme is rendered without any chroma noise or distortion. Digital compression artifacts are a non-issue, thanks to skilled DVD authoring.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack has a simple, but pleasing mix that won’t disappoint anyone. Dialogue is natural sounding and remains focused in the center channels. The surround channels are somewhat limited by the nature of the mix, however the goofy novelty tunes featured on the film’s soundtrack reproduce with surprising fidelity. An English Dolby Surround soundtrack, as well as English subtitles have also been encoded into the DVD.

The interactive menus have a simple design that gives one access to the standard scene and language features, as well as the disc’s supplements. The number one supplement is a running audio commentary featuring director John Waters. Water’s talk is almost as much fun as the film itself; his fans will find it well worth a listen. The disc also includes Pecker's Snapshot Gallery, which features an on-camera interview with Chuck Shacochis, the real photographer behind Pecker's portfolio for the film. A theatrical trailer, plus cast biographies/filmographies fill out the package.

PECKER is a fun John Waters film that his fans are certain to enjoy, plus New Line has created a good looking and sounding DVD. Recommended to anyone who knows what they are getting themselves into.




DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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