American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
"Serial Mom" has as its central joke (and a very long-running joke it is) that Beverly Sutphin, a cheerful Baltimore housewife who makes terrific meatloaf, is a serial killer. The movie thinks it is funny to contrast this with the idealized homelife she provides (or thinks she provides) for her family, which seems to have been cloned from "Ozzie and Harriet" and other idealized nuclear units.
I am not sure why this isn't very funny, but it's not. The laughs in the movie come not from the killings or even from the mom's secret identity, but from the details of everyday life which John Waters, the writer and director, skewers with such great affection.
There is even something about the way he shows sunlight bathing a breakfast table that's amusing; his Sutphins look like they live in a cereal commercial. He has the look and feel of their middle-American neighborhood just right, but the movie's comic premise doesn't go anywhere with it.
Beverly, the Serial Mom, is played by Kathleen Turner, a brave actress who has ventured here where several other actresses reportedly feared to tread. One thing I like about Turner is her willingness to tackle unlikely roles; her agent probably warned her against Danny DeVito's "War of the Roses," for example, but she and the equally fearless Michael Douglas took that exercise in matrimonial bloodshed and made it ghoulishly effective.