Shockingly obvious filmmaking from a usually eccentric and unpredictable iconoclast, Pecker is arguably director John Waters’ worst film. A transparent, laugh-free parable about Waters’ own rise to fame, the film charts the unlikely superstardom of Edward Furlong’s titular schlub, an aspiring Baltimore photographer whose life becomes front-page news after his photos of his family, friends, and the city’s weirdoes and degenerates are made famous by New York art snobs. Pecker’s loving portraits of the city’s misfit population are usurped by big-city intellectuals who condescendingly embrace his snapshots and declare him a genius, and Waters means to critique those who have patronizingly embraced his own freak-filled films for the wrong reasons. Yet this comedy’s attempts at gross-out zaniness and bourgeoisie-bashing barbs (a shot of two rats humping; male strippers tea-bagging eager club customers; jokes about the Virgin Mary; Pecker’s wink-wink name) are mostly tame and desperate; the cast – including Christina Ricci, Lilli Taylor and cameos from Mink Stole and Patty Hearst – is generally awful (especially Furlong, who belts out his lines like an overeager five-year-old); and the lifeless plot’s pervasive irony and camp is more exhausting than energizing. Pecker’s art-world reprimand feels like a tepid scolding rather than an inspired rant, and amidst all the second-rate gags and go-nowhere scenes, it was depressing to discover not a single flash of Waters’ classic, uninhibited mischievousness.