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Pecker, the latest film from shock- (and schlock-) meister John Waters (of Polyester and Pink Flamingos fame) is another example that the former cutting-edge director is now well past his prime.

Pecker (Edward Furlong) is a boy from a working class Baltimore family. His father (Mark Joy) runs a failing bar, and his mother (Mary Kay Place) runs a thrift shop that caters to the homeless. Pecker himself (who was named for his childhood habit of pecking at his food) works at a burger dive, but prefers the world of photography.

Ever since his mother gave him a run down camera from the thrift shop, Pecker has been snapping candid shots of his family, friends and neighbors. His favorite subject is his girlfriend Shelly (Christina Ricci), who is the overlord at a local laundromat. However, he doesn't stop with her. He'll photograph anything, be it his best friend (Brendan Sexton III) shoplifting, or his elder sister Tina (Martha Plimpton) hawking the meat at the gay club where she tends bar.

However, when Pecker's work is discovered by a New York art dealer (Lili Taylor), he is catapulted into instant fame. Though will fame and glamour change this small town working boy? What about the subjects of his work who find their private lives plastered for the world to see?

Director John Waters has always been known for the subversive nature of his comedies, and he tries to continue in the same vein with Pecker. Unfortunately, the world seems to have passed him by. Pecker could easily qualify as his most mundane work, and it's certainly his most boring.

The film's double-meaning title is a good example. Mildly obscene and hardly meriting a snicker, it's about as funny as the film ever gets. In fact, the film is disquietingly dull.

Edward Furlong is positively numbing in the lead role. His character here is like a blast of white noise that obliterates anything else on the screen with its vacuity. If that picture weren't bleak enough, he's the strongest character in the film. Everyone else is a mind-dullingly obvious caricature in a feeble attempt to contrast and compare the vain, artsy world of New York with the eccentric, blue collar world of Baltimore. It doesn't work.

Waters' bland script can't save the film from its own characters. Its jokes on the art world, celebrity, the homeless, organized religion, lesbian strippers, and hyperactivity are both obvious and weary. You're more likely to slip into a coma than to laugh here.

Insomniacs may find a showing of Pecker useful, but everyone else would be well advised to stay far, far away.

[R - sexuality, graphic nudity, language and brief drug use] (Fine Line)

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