American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
My best guess is that John Waters produced the talent shows in his high school. There's always been something cheerfully amateurish about his more personal films--a feeling that he and his friends have dreamed up a series of "skits" while hanging out together.
"Cecil B. Demented" takes this tendency to an almost unwatchable extreme, in a home movie that's like a bunch of kids goofing off.
To be sure, he has real stars in the picture; Melanie Griffith stars as a Hollywood star, and Stephen Dorff plays the cult leader who kidnaps her as part of his guerrilla assault on mainstream cinema. But they're used more as exhibits than performers (Look! It's Melanie Griffith!). The movie has a radical premise, as weatherman-type movie lovers try to destroy dumb commercial films, but pitches it at the level of a very bad sketch on "Saturday Night Live." Cinema guerrilla Cecil B. Demented (Dorff) and his cult group kidnap spoiled movie star Honey Whitlock (Griffith), who will be forced to star in their film. Their targets include the Maryland Film Commission, the big shots who produced Honey's new film, and "Gump Two," a sequel to "Forrest Gump," which is being shot in Baltimore. Some of this stuff is funny in concept (when they attack the director's cut of "Patch Adams," that's good for a laugh, although the scene itself isn't).
And Griffith, as Honey Whitlock, gets into the spirit. She makes the life of her assistant (Ricki Lake) miserable, she makes impossible demands, she sends back a limousine that's the wrong color (not fiction; I once actually saw Ginger Rogers do this) and she is not a good sport when it comes to eating Maryland seafood ("I'm not interested in some kind of meal you have to beat with a mallet while wearing some stupid little bib, while families of mutants gawk in your face").