Once upon a time in a ghetto far far away, a little half-breed girl looked up to her coke-monkey mother (Valarie Pettiford channeling Mad TV’s Debra Wilson channeling Whitney Houston). After Mom teaches her daughter the horrors of dozing with a lit cigarette, social services whisks micro-Glitter and her pet cat, Whiskers, from the ghetto and, eventually, into a ghetto-fabulous, post-disco 1983. Too “woe is me” for the “I want to dance” times, Billie Franklin (Mariah Carey) finds her inner twinkle with the help of DJ Dice (Max Beesley). Back in 1995, Carey could be found rollerblading on Coney Island’s boardwalk with Little Baby Jesus (a.k.a. Ol’ Dirty Bastard), daisy dukes firmly hugging her Botticelli frame. Spiraling toward Earth aboard the Cyclone in her “Fantasy” video, Carey’s daze implied that she wouldn’t know camp if it clapped her in the ass. Six years later, sans Tommy and his Columbia Records, the singer-turned-thespian has seemingly learned to nurture her inner kitsch, giving way to camp Mariah. The retro Glitter is the story of a rising star trying to find her way through the doom and gloom of a lost New York (the one before AIDS and Osama bin Laden). Glitter is Carey’s first star vehicle and, judging by this pop-lore morsel’s self-reflexivity, it may as well be Carey’s own film biography. That Glitter fails to flash-forward to the present and show Carey in age make-up is the film’s biggest missed opportunity. But, then again, who’s to say adult-Glitter would live that long? The zoftig Mariah affords her little-girl-lost role just the right mix of doe-eyed naïveté and Lifetime perseverance. Once Dice spins himself into a ghoulish Mottola-type, Glitter’s eye wanders all over Eric Benet’s Cesar but not before she and her ex-beau hysterically co-write a song using their telepathic abilities. Dice, though, has promises to keep and, in the end, bullets to dodge. And through it all, the words of the film’s tyrant video director ring true: “You can’t let the glitter overpower the artist!” Crazy ol’ Mariah may still be trapped below a heap of glitter-baggage, but Carey’s silver-streaked Billie is a trooper. She leaves her man (with a reemerged Whiskers in tow), sings him an elegy before a crowded Madison Square Garden and finds her lost mommy. So bad it’s good, Glitter springs eternal. Here’s hoping that Carey walks in her shimmery doppelganger’s footsteps.
The pan-and-scan full-screen butchering of Glitter doesn't necessarily detract from one's appreciation of what Carey & Co. have "assembled," but the film is also presented in its original 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen on the disc's flipside. The film's colors are vivid, especially during the impressively-lit club scenes (for added viewing pleasure, watch Carey's first divalicious hip-shaking on-screen moment in slow-mo). Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, the audio transfer is crisp, effectively capturing the '80s-hued sounds of Carey's Glitter soundtrack.
Glitter's director's commentary couldn't possibly be more uninspired. Hall's goal was to make "a good movie" with "some emotion" (poor, poor Mariah). The less-than-eloquent director claims the script needed to be simplified and that he was hired to give the film a gritty edge [insert laughter here]. Other features include director and cast filmographies (it's not surprising that no one featured in this section had ever actually made a movie prior to Glitter) as well as two Carey music videos, including the brilliantly over-the-top "Loverboy." Missing is the soundtrack's split-personality third video, "Don't Stop," which features three full-bosomed Mariahs.
The DVD incarnation of the campy Glitter deserves much more than what's offered here. Outtakes, interview clips and a commentary by Carey could have been priceless. A less obvious feature, however, is the disc's hidden treasure. French audio elevates the film to a whole new level of kitschy fun. Glitter, in all its camp glory, is the movie that just keeps on giving.