Directed by Adam Shankman
Written by Leslie Dixon, based on the 1988 movie by John Waters
John Travolta as Edna Turnblad
Nikki Blonsky as Tracy Turnblad
Amanda Bynes as Penny Pingleton
Christopher Walken as Wilbur Turnblad
Zac Efron as Link Larkin
Elijah Kelley as Seaweed J. Stubbs
Queen Latifah as Motormouth Maybelle
Michelle Pfeiffer as Velma Von Tussle
Brittany Snow as Amber von Tussel
James Marsden as Corny Collins
Allison Janney as Prudy Pingleton
Taylor Parks as Little Inez
115 Minutes(Rated PG for language, some suggestive content and momentary teen smoking. )
I am not usually a fan of the musical-with a few rare exceptions. I thought "Chicago" was great and "The Producers" had a few laughs, but I never got into the genre from the 50's and 60's, and I do not recall watching "Rent" back in 2005 with any kind of happiness. But I can without any hesitation that "Hairspray" is the most actual fun I've had in a movie since "Grindhouse," and I literally had a smile on my face from the opening number up until the very end. It's the most fun I've had in a theatre this summer season-more amusing than flying human spiders, and more enjoyable that swashbuckling pirates. "Hairspray" is a success from beginning to end, and a fantastic two hour ride.
I have yet to see the original 1988 film by John Waters, even though I did make it my mission to do so before seeing this one. His main character, Tracy Turnblad, is a slightly overweight high school student whose biggest dream is to be on television, dancing with Link Larkin on the Corny Collins show. When one of the dancers has to leave the show (for a ninth month period), auditions are held, and Tracy does not hesitate to go-even if it irks her mother, the equally plump Edna Turnblad (played by John Travolta here, originally played by Divine, and then played by Harvey Fierstein on Broadway). Tracy does go and ends up being noticed by Link, much to the chagrin of Velma and Amber Von Tussle, the former being Miss Baltimore and the latter being the three year running "Miss Teenage Hairspray" girl. But this year Tracy seems to have a shot. And then something happens-the Corny Collins show had always been all white dancers, except for one day of the month which they dub "Negro Day." This is something the station is fond of, but Corny finds to be rubbish. And Tracy joins the fight to end segregation in the networks, and tries to get her new African American friends to be considered equals.
There is just simply a lot of fun going on here, even if the morals and original message could seem a bit dated. But who cares? It's still a great message, and its underlined with some great musical numbers, great dance numbers, and a screen in constant color and energy. It's hard to believe that this was directed by Adam Shankman who came up with "The Pacifier" and "Cheaper by the Dozen 2," although in defense "Bringing Down the House" was very funny. But this is clearly his best work, and he may not have seemed like the right person for the job, but it is a good one nonetheless. Travolta's very funny and entertaining as Edna, and his return to musicals is welcome as ever. His brief moments where he is actually singing, including the showstopping finale, are some highlights. Christopher Walken, the father character, looks like he is having a good time even without putting an extreme amount of effort into it. But the real treasure is Nikki Blonsky, in the lead role of Tracy. This is her film debut, but she put such a strong amount of energy into every single moment where she is in the frame that she was a wonder to behold. Last year people were commenting on Jennifer Hudson in "Dreamgirls," but in the end all she was was a great singer. Blonsky is a decent singer, dancer, and she just has that overall charming quality about her. She clearly put a massive amount of effort into Tracy, and it really is a great performance through and through.
And there are a few fun cameos. Jerry Stiller, who plays the Walken character in the original, shows up-even though I did not know until after that he was in the first film. And John Waters has a split second appearance as "the flasher," and even Rikki Lake pops up near the end. And this involvement only heightened the fun-even if I never saw the first I am aware of those actors involvement in it. "Hairspray' is probably the most entertaining film of the summer, and some of the most fun I had all year. Every musical number hits the mark, and its filled with so much energy and liveliness that I didn't want it to end- and the final number will certainly have you clapping along. This is a great film.