Director: John Waters
Stars: Kathleen Turner, Sam Waterston, Ricki Lake
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons
This is one of cult and shock director extraordinaire, John Waters’, more mainstream and commercial movies. But all that means is no one is eating real dog crap in it, and I am fine with that. While the gross out factor has been dialed back here, the sharp social commentary and the black humor has been turned up to eleven. And with seasoned actors like Kathleen Turner and Sam Waterston taking lead roles, this film shows that Waters can deliver the goods as any “real director” from Hollywood, while still hanging on to some (most?) of what made Waters’ movies so unique, other than the OMG WTF did I just see moments. But is this black horror/crime drama/comedy actually good? Let’s find out.
Kathleen Turner is a June Cleaver-like wife and mother. She’s lovely, caring, PTA member, and cupcake baker. She also enjoys responding to any slight with either a campaign of obscene terror, if you’re lucky, or if you really miff her, with bloody, violent murder. And because she’s so psychotic, she’s not all that concerned with covering up her tracks, so soon she’s nailed by the cops and has to defend herself in a court of law and that’s where the film has its climax. So it’s part a comical look at suburbia USA, part commentary on serial kill culture, part courtroom drama, and all hilarious. That’s the nickel tour of the plot, but what makes this movie succeed is so much more than that.
Kathleen is wonderful as both the best mom ever and an uncaring homicidal maniac. The combination of both roles into one is hysterical, and while the whole movie is as camp as Christmas, her performance is not. The plot has enough twists and turns to keep things interesting, and enough social commentary to keep even the most highbrow viewer entertained. That’s not to say that there aren’t more than a few lowbrow laughs to be had, there are, but writer/director Waters does a great job dancing on that fine line without ever falling off. Oh, and this is the very rare movie that has Matthew Lillard where I don’t completely hate him. No, not his character, I mean him. Now that’s an accomplishment.
Let’s move on to the extras Scream Factory has rounded up for this new Blu-ray collector’s edition. First, there is an audio commentary with director John Waters, and then Mr. Waters returns for a second commentary with actress Kathleen Turner. There is a conversation with director Waters, star Turner, and actress Mink Stole that runs 34 minutes. There is a classic press video about the movie that’s six minutes, a 29-minute featurette about the surreal moments of Serial Mom, which is more about John Waters and his weird interests. Because the gore flicks of Herschel Gordon Lewis play a part in this movie, there is an 11-minute featurette about him and his movies here. Lastly there is the theatrical trailer.
Being far more a comedy than anything horrific, I can nonetheless highly recommend this movie to anyone here reading this review. Serial Mom is just fun. Period. It’s silly, goofy, a tad insightful, funny, a little bloody, but over everything else: fun. And sometimes being fun is just enough. I love it, and I think you will too, so be sure to get it when it comes out May 9th.