In a remote desert town, a psychopathic petty crook (Smith) and his transvestite girlfriend (Carradine) kidnap an orphaned infant, cage it like an animal, and train it to steal and kill on their command. Years later, when the half-wild Sonny Boy escapes and embarks on a bloody rampage, the couple's monstrous attempt at "child development" provokes the local populace into vengeful retaliation. Unlike any film you've ever seen, Sonny Boy is an unsettling, wildly bizarre allegory on the devastating effects of child abuse and the violent consequences that follow.
In the film SONNY BOY, which takes place in the small town of Harmony, New Mexico, a man by the name of Slue is a small-time crime boss, who owns and operates a junkyard outside of town. The junkyard is also the place where he stores all of his stolen goods. We find him on a day in 1970, where he accepts a stolen convertible from his henchman, "Weasel". The car checks out, and Slue is sure he can turn a profit with it, however, he was not expecting what he finds in the backseat - a 6 month old baby. Instead of getting rid of the child, his transvestite wife, :Pearl" insists that they raise the boy as their own. However, Slue makes sure that he doesn't have any old ordinary upbringing. At the age of six, Slue cuts out the boy, "Sonny's" tongue so he cannot speak(and likely, so he cannot speak of the crimes that he sees). Slue also "toughens" him up, by doing things such as dragging him behind a car, and burning him. Slue also keeps him held captive, making Sonny Boy inherit animal-like qualities, as he is held off from the world. However, when Slue and his men, Weasel and Charlie P. run into a problem with the Mayor, which threatens their operation, they unleash the cannibalistic Sonny on him. From there, fearing that their cover would be blown by the act, they go on the move in an old ice cream truck(with Sonny locked away in the back of said truck. But when Sonny begins to venture out into the world on his own, it draws some unwanted attention to Slue and his gang, when Sonny causes an uproar with the townsfolk, who want him dead. And in the midst of it all, there is also Rose, who just wants to love him.
Well, where to start with this one? I guess that I should start by saying that SONNY BOY is indeed a weird one. It is just an odd mixture of ideas that make up a film that isn't sure what it wants to be. Is it a black comedy? A Horror film? Or is it a self-discovery romance tale? The truth is, that it tries to be all of these things at one point or another over the course of its duration, and truthfully, it never really reaches the peak of any of these elements. Yes, as weird as it sounds, the film is about a crime kingpin of the desert, who, with his transvestite partner, raise a baby up to be a cannibalistic man-child, who can't talk, because they cut out his tongue on his sixth Birthday. Yes, that's what it's about. The film then progresses to show the crime boss, Slue and his gang, use the man-child's cannibal ways to their advantage, when they let him loose as a "weapon" of sorts. But then eventually their actions catch up to them, when Sonny, now 17 gets more out in the open, as he begins to think a little for himself for the first time in his life. The good thing about it, is that he finds love, but the bad comes when his actions become more noticed by the town. In the end, the townsfolk organize a ragtag lynch mob that create a last act for the film that goes down in a fiery blaze.
The story is all over the place, not to mention, very odd. Not only to we have David Carradine in the film as a Transvestite wife, we also witness, not only the torture of a young person, but also the exploitation of them. The tone for the film is purposely off-beat in nature. The film is supposed to be a black comedy, yet very little about SONNY BOY is either humorous or enjoyable. It's just odd. That's the only way I could describe it. It's like a John Waters film, except without the trademark wit. Perhaps had Waters himself had written and directed such a film, it would have been better. This film comes off as attempting to be weird just for the sake of being weird. And because of this, we are left with many weird happenings, but not a story that we can fully invest in. I am betting that the majority reaction to this one, isn't "it's a fun story" or even "it was enjoyable", but rather "It's weird". And well. if that's the reaction the filmmakers hoped to achieve with it, than they have done so. I will think of this one as being weird, somewhat silly, but mostly boring.
I mean, the cast here is a great assemblage. David Carradine as the Transvestite, is strangely good, as are Paul L. Smith as "Slue", and Brad Dourif as "Weasel", As well as Sydney Lassick as "Charlie P.", Slue's 2 flunkies. And we can also say that Actor Michael Boston(introduced here, credited as Michal Griffin), does ok. But in terms of story, we never really connect with them. Or at least, "I" didn't connect with them.
To sum it up, SONNY BOY is a strange entry from 1989. It is one that I assume that the notion of "love it or hate it" applies firmly. Some, may like it, while others will find very little to enjoy from it. Unfortunately I happen to be part of the latter group. While I appreciate it's weirdness and it's willingness to "think outside the proverbial box", the story is no more than just a series of moments and ideas.
IMPRESSION OF THE FILM
As I said, SONNY BOY is almost like "John Waters without John Waters". It's kooky and attempts to be darkly comedic purposely, yet lacks something. Something that draws us in, and keeps our attention. I'll admit, that at first I was a little interested, just for it's odd qualities. However once that appeal wore off, the film was nothing more than an aimless one, with many ideas and occurrences(First, our characters are here, then they're there, they lock up Sonny, then he's out, people are after him, but oh, he's found love!). It's just all over the place, and did I mention that it's "weird"? Try it. You just might like it more than I did.
Special Features include :
- NEW Audio Commentary With Director Robert Martin Carroll
- NEW Audio Commentary With Writer Graeme Whifler
- Script – 1st Draft (Accessible Via BD-ROM)
- Theatrical Trailer