**NOTE - Make sure you get the UNRATED version of this DVD. The NC-17 has many of the "good parts" cut out**
Let me start by saying that if you are one of those uptight moviegoers who has been brainwashed into thinking that such snooze-inducing fare as Shrek, Harry Potter or anything starring Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise is the be-all-end-all, this movie is definitely not your speed. For the small percentage of you who actually "get it" and can watch Desperate Living, Serial Mom or Polyester multiple times and never get bored, you will find lots to love here.
That trademark Waters' vibe starts buzzing as soon as the dialogue begins. The soundtrack, peppered with obscure novelty ditties, and raunchy instrumental oldies is bullseye-perfect.
Just like Melanie Griffith in Cecil B. Demented, Ullmann sinks her teeth into the role and her rubbery face and sketch comedy background allow her to immediately adjust her style to Waters' material. Johnny Knoxville is wickedly charismatic, and Selma Blair is hilarious yet surprisingly vulnerable as the ridiculously over-endowed "Ursula Udders". (You just wanna put a raincoat over that poor girl at times). Mink Stole returns in a meatier role than she's had in years (plus a purposely-unflattering hairstyle to say the least).
The story was well paced and let it not be said this film dragged in certain spots. Waters' knows how to keep the action going and purposely keeps all his movies within a 90-minute running time. The finale featuring the head-butting was sort of lost on me during my initial viewing and some may be put off by its somewhat repetitive nature, but it wasn't until I realized that this was the "new sex act", that I accepted it for what it was. (See, even a Waters' junkie like me needs multiple viewings to catch everything!)
Those well schooled in all things Waters (including having read Trash Trio), will find plenty of amusing in-jokes here that will be wasted on the casual viewer or even not-so-diehard fan. The nude orderly that Tracy sees in the Hokey Pokey scene is reminiscent of the nude hitchhiker that Divine imagines in Mondo Trasho.
Furthermore, true aficionados know that Waters had originally included a scene of the entire Divine clan (Crackers, Edie, Cotton et al) doing the Hokey Pokey in the unfilmed Pink Flamingos sequel Flamingos Forever. The dance was basically a throwaway bit in the unfinished work and had it been used in a prior film we never would have had the pleasure of seeing Ullmann grab the scene by its collective b*lls and run completely wild with it as she does here, making it one of the unqualified highlights of the film.
Rats have always been a prominent fixture in John Waters' films such as Desperate Living, Hairspray and Pecker and here, fittingly, we have not one by two appearances by their suburban counterparts-squirrels (rats with bushy tails).
The montages of old film clips used during the critical scenes when the characters swing back and forth between their neuter and sex-addict personas are perhaps a nod to the 1970 cult classic Myra Breckinridge, which used the technique to similar effect.
It was nice to see Ricki Lake appear (even if only in clip form), and David Hasselhoff's appearance continues the tradition of using well-known native Baltimorean TV personalities (think Bess Armstrong in Serial Mom and Pecker) in cameo roles. For those fans that enjoy picking out the original Dreamlanders who are usually found lately in crowd scenes etc, Mary Vivian Pearce, and Channing Wilroy are easily spotted. George Figgs is harder to pick out (if you look closely during the "Town Hall" meeting scene at the Park `n Pay, he's there). Sadly, so many of the legendary originals have passed on to another place, hopefully a wild-and-crazy Dreamland in the sky-or perhaps, an even bigger party....um...elsewhere!
As for the DVD itself, the bonus features are great, as to be expected. You get not one but TWO commentaries, one by John Waters, and a second by Pat Moran, Van Smith, Vince Peranio and Brooke Yeaton. It is nit picking to say this, but the latter commentary was not recorded while the participants screened the film, but rather as they were being interviewed about it. For this reason, it is not as enjoyable as Waters' commentary, but it is enjoyable and required viewing all the same. A small portion of their commentary can also be found on the featurette "All the Dirt on `A Dirty Shame'". The featurette itself runs approximately one hour in length (whereas similar ones on other DVD's clock in at a mere 6 or minutes most of the time).
Lastly, there is no shortage of memorable quotes to add to the Waters' library. Among the best:
"I seen you Sylvia Stickles...showin' your pubic patch to the bus driver. Why don't ya move downtown where ya belong-ya whore!"
"Mutilating your mammaries and gyrating down at some biker bar is an act all right-an act of defiance!"
"Let's go down to the Holiday House and f*** the whole bar!"