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USA 2007
Directed by
Adam Shankman
117 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
4.5 stars

Hairspray (2007)

Synopsis: Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky) is a large girl in every respect, from her figure to her hair to her dreams and her heart. She is over-protected by her equally large mother (John Travolta), and encouraged in all she does by her father (Christopher Walken). Tracy has a passion and a flair for dancing and longs to get a gig on the Corny Collins Show. When her dream comes true she is immediately in the firing line of the show’s producer, Velma van Tussle (Michelle Pfeiffer), and her blonde bombshell daughter Amber (Brittany Snow) who holds the current “Miss Teenage Hairspray” title. As the current titles approach, other issues loom large, particularly those of racial equality on the show, and Amber’s boyfriend Link (Zac Efron) who is sweet on Tracy.

I have seen neither John Waters' 1988 original or the Broadway musical that evolved from it but I really cannot imagine either being able to entertain me more than this re-incarnation.

After hunting worldwide through 1000 girls, the filmmakers found their 17-year-old overweight girl who could sing, dance and act, and who has a charisma as wide as the big screen itself. From the moment Tracy climbs out of bed and starts singing “Good Morning Baltimore”, her confidence, sexiness and electric magnetism are there, and they don’t flag throughout the entire movie. The part of Edna, Tracy’s Mum has always been played by a man. It was Divine and now John Travolta dons a full body fat suit and is just perfect in the role. You know it’s him, but you what you see is a big, loving, all-embracing mum. As Edna’s foil, the highly versatile Christopher Walken, another experienced song and dance man is delectable and in one notable scene he and Travolta perform a song and dance duet you’ll never forget.

Being an ensemble film, every cast member is important and none of them lets you down. Sexy ice-queen Pfeiffer plays the wonderfully dead-pan vindictive van Tussle and she is so beautifully contrasted by Queen Latifah as the voluptuous Motormouth Maybelle, the host of the once-a-month “Negro Day” on the Corny Collins show. Corny (James Marsden) is full of just the right amount of finger-snapping pizzazz and hip-gyrating oomph, while the handsome Zac Efron is adorable as the spunky Link. Even tiny roles such as Alison Janney as the mum of Tracy’s best friend Penny (Amanda Bynes) are stand outs.

The look of Hairspray is marvellous – the 60s has been captured in all its wacky, tacky glory with great streetscapes, set and costume design but its the dancing that really knocks you out. Director Shankman a prominent dance and physical comedy choreographer and his flair for creating exciting dance routines is obvious.

When the plot starts to extend beyond Tracy’s aspirations for the rock’n’roll show and touches on the racial theme, enter a whole new crew of dancers and actors, as the black kids, who have themselves a ball every afternoon in detention class, teach Tracy some hip new moves. One particular dude, Seaweed (Elijah Kelly), opens Tracey’s eyes to the whole problem of racial inequality, both on the Corny Collins show and in broader society. This becomes a critical plot point for the film, as Tracy realises that there’s more than one sort of outsider and that they all deserve to be heard. Sure, real-life resolution is never quite so simple for minority groups, be they fat or black, but the way this story has them all coming out as winners is just so uplifting.

With its knock ‘em dead performances, a raft of great songs and frenetic dancing to get you going, plus a plot that doesn’t let up for a second (and with some serious issues), Hairspray has to be the most fun to be had legally in a cinema for years.




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