Monday, April 8, 2019

Movie Review: "Hairspray" (2007)

Director: Adam Shankman
Year: 2007
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 57 minutes

In Baltimore in 1962, a plus size teen named Tracy Turnblad uses her skills to land a spot on a local  TV dance show. She quickly becomes a fan favorite and uses her notoriety to push for integration and acceptance for all people.

Nikki Blonsky Amanda Bynes Hairspray movie still Tracy Turnblad
"I want that chubby communist girl off the show!" (Image Source)
In 1988, writer/director John Waters first introduced the world to Tracy Turnblad and the story "Hairspray." Though not all that commercially successful at the time of its release, it would go on to gain a cult following like many of John Waters's films. It would later be adapted into a stage musical by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan. From there, that musical play would be adapted back into a film in 2007 with a screenplay by Leslie Dixon. This film is directed by Adam Shankman, who is known for such illustrious films as "A Walk to Remember," "The Pacifier," and "Rock of Ages." The story takes place in 1962 Baltimore and centers on the previously mentioned Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky), who is known for her plump figure, her progressive attitude, and her slammin' dance skills. When an opening becomes available on Tracy's favorite local television dance program, she decides to try out for the spot. Despite being shot down by station manager Velma Von Tussle (Michelle Pfeiffer) due to her size, Tracy is seen dancing by the show's lead dancer Link (Zac Efron), who gives her a tip about where she can perform for show host Corny Collins (James Marsden). Corny is so impressed, he gives her a spot on his show. Tracy quickly becomes a fan favorite and hopes to use her popularity to push for the integration of The Corny Collins Show and beyond.
Hairspray 2007 movie musical Zac Efron Brittany Snow
"This heart only beats for size 60." (Image Source)
Anyone familiar with John Waters' work will know he likes to push the envelope beyond what many would consider "in good taste." He seems to go out of his way to be outside the box and can even sometimes be offensive. Though this musical version of "Hairspray" has been dialed way, way back for a more mainstream audience, it still attempts to maintain an homage to Waters' edge. This can mainly be seen in the casting of John Travolta as Tracy's obese mother Edna (played by drag queen Divine in the original). Casting Travolta means he had to wear a fat suit, and it also meant he would have to dress in drag as well. Double yikes in 2019. It's awkward to be sure, but we seriously don't think we've ever seen Travolta look more comfortable on screen, so we digress.

We really like "Hairspray" despite its flaws. This movie boasts lots of catchy, terrific music, including the infectious "Good Morning Baltimore," the sweet "I Can Hear the Bells," the unifying "Without Love," the upbeat "Ladies' Choice," the sexy-but-silly "Big, Blonde, and Beautiful," the important "I Know Where I've Been," and the progressive "You Can't Stop the Beat." There are several excellent performances here. Nikki Blonsky totally embodies the character of Tracy Turnblad and offers a charming, energetic performance. She radiates warmth and joy and fun-filled cheesiness on-screen in this lead role despite it being her feature film debut. There is also a spectacular supporting cast, including but not limited to the shiny-but-vain heartthrob Zac Efron (as Link), the perfectly prickly Brittany Snow (as Amber), the superb Queen Latifah (as Motormouth Maybelle), the sheltered-but-wild Amanda Bynes (as Penny Pingleton), the authoritarian taskmaster Allison Janney (as Prudy Pingleton), the impressive-and-smooth Elijah Kelley, and the handsome show host James Marsden (as Corny Collins). Michelle Pfeiffer is also magnificent as Velma Von Tussle, a former beauty queen and current bigot who discriminates against both people of color and those who don't fit into the societal archetype of "normal" beauty standards. Pfeiffer serves as the main villain of the story and is deliciously wicked in the role, but she also brings some humor and silliness to the part as well. Speaking of 'humor and silliness,' another noteworthy performance comes from Christopher Walken. He plays the loving but sometimes oblivious Wilbur Turnblad, and though his execution can't be described as anything other than Walkenesque, it is still amazing, and it makes us laugh every single time we watch it.
Michelle Pfeiffer James Marsden Hairspray 2007 movie John Waters Corny Collins Show
"Velma, isn't this where it's all headin' anyway? Now, you can fight it or you can rock out to it." (Image Source)
While 2007's "Hairspray" is a much glossier, polished rendition of John Waters' fan favorite cult classic, we cannot deny that we have a soft spot in our hearts for this joyful version. The casting is (almost 100%) spot-on, the tunes are marvelous, the set designs and costumes are vibrant and fun, and most importantly, it makes us smile and tap our toes! You can't stop the beat!

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.7/10
RT Rating: 91%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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