Movie Review of Hairspray (2007)

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Review #485 of 365
Movie Review of Hairspray (2007) [PG] 107 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $13.75
Where Viewed: United Artists Denver Pavilions Stadium 15, Denver, CO
When 1st Seen: 21 July 2007
Time: 11:35 am
Film's Official WebsiteFilm's Trailer
DVD Release Date: 20 November 2007 (click date to purchase)

Soundtrack: Download now from Nikki Blonsky, Zac Efron, Amanda Bynes, Elijah Kelly, John Travolta & Queen Latifah - Hairspray (Soundtrack to the Motion Picture) - or - order the CD below

Directed by: Adam Shankman (Cheaper by the Dozen 2)
Screenplay by: Leslie Dixon (Just Like Heaven ) based on the 1988 screenplay by John Waters

Featured Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
John Travolta (Wild Hogs) • Michelle Pfeiffer (I Could Never Be Your Woman) • Christopher Walken (Man of the Year) • Amanda Bynes (She's the Man) • James Marsden (Superman Returns) • Queen Latifah (Stranger than Fiction) • Brittany Snow (John Tucker Must Die) • Zac Efron (High School Musical) • Elijah Kelley (Take the Lead) • Allison Janney (Strangers with Candy) • Nikki Blonsky (debut) • Taylor Parks ("Gilmore Girls") • Paul Dooley (For Your Consideration) • Jerry Stiller ("The King of Queens" )

Click for 'Review Lite' [a 150-word or less review of this film]
Based on the Broadway musical which was based on the John Waters film, this summer's hot musical is not Disney's "High School Musical" but rather Adam Shankman's Hairspray. Recently a celebrity judge on "So You Think You Can Dance", Mr. Shankman came across as being zany, passionate, exuberant, full of life, and totally committed to dance and music. All of these characteristics could be used to describe his jazzed up interpretation of the story as he takes it back to the big screen. Somehow both the stage and previous big screen versions escaped my watchful eye, affording me the opportunity to have this be my introduction to the Turnblad family and the affable comedy that does its best to serve notice on social injustice as well.

"… a raucous, lively, absolutely funtastic, hair-raising, summer treat."
Set in the early 1960s, pre-Civil Rights movement Baltimore, the story traces the rise of pleasantly plump by a few pounds, Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky) to 'stardom' on her favorite afternoon teen dance show, "The Corny Collins Show", as well as to 'social activist' as she aligns herself with Motormouth Maybelle (Queen Latifah) and Seaweed (Elijah Kelley) to help integrate the formerly segregated show. With ebullient humor and hairspray-hardened might, Tracy stands up to racist station manager and former Ms. Baltimore, Velma Von Tussle (Michelle Pfeiffer) helping to catalyze changes in the show that longtime host and forward thinker, Corny Collins (James Marsden) has been seeking to achieve and pushing slowly but surely toward despite a viewing audience and city that might not be quite ready. Tracy is dually motivated to reach her goal of dancing on the show to prove to her doting parents Edna (John Travolta in drag) and Wilbur (Christopher Walken) that her size will not deter her from her life's ambitions and to, perhaps, catch the eye of dreamboat cast member, Link Larkin (Zac Efron). Her best friend, Penny Pingleton (Amanda Bynes) is by her side all the way despite attempts by her religious zealot and card carrying racist mother, Prudy (Allison Janney). Great music and dance numbers keep this musical hopping from start to finish, but it is the wonderful characters and worthy social agenda that make for a lasting impact. Adam Shankman did a stupendous job of choreographing and directing this film musical adaptation. Personally, I don't find that the transition from stage to film always works very well. Last year's The Producers which followed a similar route from film to stage to new film stands as great proof to the point as it simply didn't work that well the second time around. Perhaps had I seen the first two Hairsprays, I might feel the same, but I don't think so. I thoroughly enjoyed this film from the opening number to the curtain call. Nikki Blonski was a rare find, perfect in every aspect for the role and even bearing a striking resemblance to the robustly designed body suit and make-up job given to transform John Travolta into her fabulously curvaceous mother.
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John Travolta
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Probably no one would have predicted his ability to fit into a role made famous in the original film by the late Divine, but he does and well.
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Christopher Walken
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The chemistry between him and Christopher Walken is a bit off, but grows more believable as the film progresses.
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Michelle Pfeiffer
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Michelle Pfeiffer has a delicious time playing the baddy in the film as her dark character will stop at nothing to advance the career of her daughter, Amber (Brittany Snowa) nor her own sphere of influence.
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Queen Latifah
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Queen Latifah is her usual wonderful self adapting seamlessly into the role of the 'Negro Day' host of the Corny Collins Show and surrogate mother for the cause of integrated music and dancing on television. Her vocal talents also play through well. Zac Efron doesn't have to do much to fit his role, a late 50s version of his "High School Musical" character with a hairdo that will make even girls of the 20-hundreds swoon—what is it with that Superman drop curl that's so tantalizing anyway?
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Meanwhile, Amana Bynes is mostly a showpiece, but she handles her semi-understudy role with grace proving that she does not always need to be the center of attention really allowing newcomer Blonski to shine. Elijah Kelley proves himself worthy of additional attention for future consideration with some top notch numbers and a charismatic soul. The biggest surprise of the cast, however, was actually James Marsden. Not only does he really get the importance of his pivotal role, but he sings and dances like he's never been seen before. He has me convinced that if we gave him an afternoon, teen dance show right now, kids today would actually go home after school to watch it. He was actually that good, and it was great to seem him take a bit more charge with his character as he's so often been cast as a brooding, scorned lover of late. Time to give this guy his own leading role in a big film. He might be actually be Tom Cruise's successor if given the right set of opportunities. John Waters created, perhaps an improbable, set of characters in a musical that might not have looked like a winner, yet here it is as relevant and fantastic playing in 2007 as it did in 1988. With this terrific updated cast sure to induce the swoons of fans of crooners and musicals alike, Hairspray is one of this summer's featured films that actually delivers on cue the promised notes. It was a blast, but also serves as an important reminder that things have come a long way since 1960, but only because people were willing to stick their necks out for what they believe, stand up and fight for social change, and work to continue the momentum when there may have been many hoping it might just all go away. It might not have been necessary to remake this film, but the result, at least, with cameos by Waters and Riki Lake was a worthy. Kudos again, to Adam Shankman for gifting us with a raucous, lively, absolutely funtastic, hair-raising, summer treat.

Still Photo Gallery for Hairspray (2007)

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Zac Efron and Nikki Blonsky as Link Larkin and Tracy Turnblad

John Travolta and Queen Latifah as Edna Turnblad and Motormouth Maybelle

Christopher Walken as Wilbur Turnblad

Michelle Pfieffer as Velma Von Tussle

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Related Products from
Other Projects Featuring Hairspray (2007)
Cast Members
John TravoltaMichelle PfeifferChristopher Walken
Amanda BynesJames MarsdenQueen Latifah
Brittany SnowZac EfronElijah Kelley
Allison JanneyJerry StillerTaylor Parks
Adam Shankman
Leslie Dixon
CD Soundtrack
Original Film Soundtrack
Original Film DVD
Original Film VHS
Related DVD Collection

Review-lite Hairspray (2007) [max of 150 words]
A risky notion, updating a cult-popular film from the late 80s with a decidedly gorgeous 2000s cast in a summer of heavy-hitting blockbusters. Who could have predicted that it would be the summer's first great comedy and most lively (non-special effects-driven) film and the first to actually deliver on its promise? Featuring a great cast including the divine John Travolta, Michelle Pfieffer, James Marsden, Zac Efron, Amanda Bynes, Christopher Walken, the wondrous Queen Latifah, and new comer Nikki Blonski, lively music, perfect dancing (choreographed and directed by Adam Shankman), the film soars with both brilliant and timeless social agendas as well as terrific historical reminders to keep us all on a progressively forward path. So far, the most fun to be had at the movies this summer.

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