Hairspray


Directed by: Adam Shankman
Written by:Leslie Dixon
Starring: John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Amanda Bynes, James Marsden, Queen Latifah, Brittany Snow, Zac Efron, Nikki Blonsky
Released: September 13, 2007
Grade: B+

Hairspray is a fun, light-hearted musical.  To use an old movie term, you can simply “sit back, relax and enjoy the show”.

The opening song sets the scene and introduces us to our leading lady.  Her name is Tracy Turnblad (Blonsky) and she’s a young, overweight girl living in Baltimore.  The year is 1962.  To describe Tracy as effervescent would be an understatement.  She loves her family, loves her friends and loves to dance.  In almost every scene, there’s a beaming smile on her face.

Tracy’s favourite television program is The Corny Collins Show.  It’s a dance show which features young school kids from the Baltimore area.  It’s kind of like Young Talent Time (for those looking for an Australian equivalent).  Every afternoon, she races home from school and watches it with her best friend Penny (Bynes).  They turn up the volume and dance till they’re out of breath.

One day, host Corny Collins (Marsden) announces that they’re looking for a new dancer.  Tracy thinks this her opportunity and races down the studio to audition.  The show’s producer, Velma Von Tussle (Pfeiffer), takes one look at Tracy and turns her away.  Velma has no intention of letting some short, overweight girl be a part of the program.  They have standards to uphold.

Tracy’s rejection though is short lived.  The school heartthrob, Link Larkin (Efron), spots Tracy dancing in the detention hall.  He is a big fan of her creative moves.  Link uses his influence to get Tracy a spot on the show.  I’m not sure what Tracy is excited about most – the fact that she got the part or that she’s now friends with Link (who she has a major crush on).

Anyway, Tracy becomes a smash hit.  Her parents, Edna (Travolta) and Wilbur (Walken), couldn’t be happier.  The audience loves Tracy and her popularity is soon rivalling that of star Amber Von Tussle (Snow), the daughter of the show’s producer.  This is creating a lot of tension behind the scenes.  Tracy is oblivious to it all however – she just loves to express herself through the medium of dance.

There is a lot more to this story but you can see it for yourself to find out more.  That is unless you saw the original film which came in 1988.  Written and directed by John Waters, it featured a lesser known cast and only produced moderate returns at the box-office.  I’d be interested in knowing how many people have seen it.  I know I haven’t.  It 2002, Waters’ film was turned into Broadway show.  It won the Tony Award for best musical and is still showing today.

This remake of Hairspray, directed by Adam Shankman (A Walk To Remember) boasts some high profile stars and much bigger budget.  It’s the cast which I enjoyed most about the film.  John Travolta is fantastic as a woman and Michelle Pfeiffer is brilliant as the evil producer.  Christopher Walken is also at his quirky best.  Of the younger cast members, I liked Amanda Bynes (She’s The Man) best of all.  She’s ditzy but endearing.

I’ve said this about a few other recent musicals but it doesn’t quite match up to the high benchmark set by Chicago and Moulin Rouge.  I was bored by some of the earlier songs and it took a while for the film to warm up on me.  The second half is better than the first.  On the whole though, it’s a definitely film worth seeing.  If you’re a fan of musicals, you won’t want to miss it.