Warning: this movie is a musical…if you don’t like over the top characters with alliterated names who wreak of enthusiasm and sing their hearts out…you probably won’t like Hairspray.
The setting is Baltimore during the early sixties. The story revolves around Tracy Turnblad (played by newcomer Nikki Blonsky), a full-figured girl with larger than life ambition and a heart of gold to match. Tracy’s dream is to dance (against her mother’s wishes) on the popular Corny Collins television show and win the affection of her dream guy, Link Larkin (the adorable Zac Efron of High School Musical). Pretty cliché right? Try throwing in a fight for desegregation and John Travolta in drag. Now we’re talking. See, in her quest to become the next dance sensation, Tracy becomes friends with some of the African-American kids, including Seaweed Stubbs (Elijah Kelley), who are tired of racial segregation on television. With the help of her reluctant mother and best friend Penny Pingleton, Tracy starts a crusade for civil rights.
Other key players include “the bad guys,” or girls, in this case: the devilish but still stunning Michelle Pfeiffer as Velma Von Tussle, mother of Amber Von Tussle (Brittany Snow), who is Tracy’s sworn enemy and top competitor for Miss Teenage Hairspray. Christopher Walken adds an element of the amusingly bizarre as Wilbur Turnblad. Amanda Bynes is goofy and charming as the best friend and though all the stars do their own singing, Queen Latifah as Motormouth Maybelle wins the prize for best vocals.
Hairspray is based on the 1988 John Waters film of the same name, this time directed by Adam Shankman who also contributed as lead choreographer…and it shows. The remake is almost nonstop singing and dancing and includes almost all of the original Broadway songs and a few strategically placed newbies including “Ladies Choice” and “The New Girl in Town.”
The casting is a perfect mix of the older and younger generations and Nikki Blonsky was truly an amazing find in this her film debut. The dancing is spot-on, synchronized down to the last twist and the songs are both catchy and inspiring. Basically, this movie takes a somewhat trite and predictable plot and turns it into a colorful, entertaining, and heart warming smash hit with a kick-ass soundtrack (which I bought the second I left the theater.)