on September 25, 1998 by Cathy Thompson-Georges
   The premise of "Pecker" is a familiar one: A young boy from a small, warm neighborhood discovers the cold side of the big city. But this is a John Waters film, which means that the neighborhood is in Baltimore, the boy is named Pecker, and his wholesome, loving friends and neighbors include lesbian strippers, male exotic dancers who specialize in the unmentionable practice of "teabagging," and a talking statue of the Virgin Mary.
   Although Waters has toned down his off-beat vision since the days when he had Divine eat dog-doo on film, "Pecker" still has a wickedly funny sensibility. Young Pecker (Edward Furlong) is a budding photographer who supposedly got his nickname from pecking at his food. His family might include a sugar-shocked brat (Lauren Hulsey), a thrift-store couturier to the homeless (Mary Kay Place) and a gay-bar hostess (Martha Plimpton), but they're a loving clan all the same, and his photos are an affectionate document of Baltimore life. When he's discovered by a New York agent (Lili Taylor), however, he becomes an overnight art-world sensation, and his Baltimore portraits are seen as a freak show.
   Pecker's revenge on the art-world snobs is overly obvious and a trifle preachy, but "Pecker" is a fun flick all the same. The music (by Stewart Copeland) is terrific, and the cast gives its all; notably, Christina Ricci is fine as Pecker's surly laundromat-manager girlfriend. There's even a monologue which probably sums up Water's artistic vision--a few moments before his two leads have sex in a voting booth. It's easy to love a movie in which the director's credit runs over the image of two rats "making love" in a garbage can.    Starring Edward Furlong, Christina Ricci and Lili Taylor. Directed and written by John Waters. Produced by John Fiedler and Mark Tarlov. A Fine Line release. Comedy. Rated R for sexuality, graphic nudity, language and brief drug use. Running time: 88 min.
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