A somewhat return to form, ‘Shame’ steers John Waters back toward the dirty-minded territory he so trademarkedly mined back in his early days. Still somewhat sweet natured (like all his post “Hairspray” films) and totally not deserving of its NC-17 rating, the film does fall apart into an incoherent sticky mess towards the end but manages more than a few laughs and acts of lewdness on the way.
Built around a simple but effective premise, the film starts off with a threadbare plot and goes off in wacky tangents rather than trying any actual narrative resolutions. Its an unpolished and old-fashioned style, yet this almost 1950’s toned B-movie has a very playful heart to it amidst the one-note jokes describing pretty much every perversion on the planet. Its bluer and lewder than Waters more recent flicks, yet doesn’t feel as clever or risque as his classics of old. The cast is solid, Ullman bravely pushing and sending herself up. She’s not at her peak and gets little chance to show off her usual debonair flair, but there is something compelling about her sheer energy. Blair also deliciously has fun playing with her mega-mammary props, though its Knoxville with his simmering sex appeal and low-brow attitude that seems to fit with Waters program the best.
Minor characters ranging from the yuppie neighbours to the gay bear family add a few chuckles. The production values fall along the slightly cheesy lines which suits the material, same with the rather ordinary CG which involves horny trees and overactive squirrels. The score has a strong collection of fun vintage songs with tawdry corruptible titles.
The performances are committed and the intentions superb, Waters just needed to have more focus and better writing on its jokes to have put this into “Serial Mom” classic comedy territory.