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hairspray Hairspray
Directed by:
Adam Shankman
Cast: John Travolta, Michelee Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Amanda Bynes, Zac Efron

Written by:
Ricardo Barberini

September 6, 2007

If you are looking for a movie to make you happy then this is it.   This musical was initially written by John Waters in 1988 and opened to limited success.


The current movie is based on his original idea.  However, it is a very uplifting movie that makes you feel good about yourself and the world we all live in.

It is 1962.  Kennedy is the president and is trying to usher a new age.  Tracy Tumblad is a white, short, overweight, lower  working class teenager .  She lives with her parents in a working class neighborhood.  Her mother is an obese laundress who has no self confidence in herself or her family.  Her impotent father makes a few dollars by running a  costume store on the ground floor of  their little house.  From this family with low self esteem springs a very exuberant daughter. 

Tracy  has the natural talents of a  great dancer but not the lithe body that goes with it. The South is still totally segregated.  Kennedy’s assassination is still a year away.  Martin Luther King spends his time between jail and sermons.. There has been no march on Selma, Alabama and no major Civil  Rights events.  That is all yet to come during the next 5 years.  The population is just beginning to warm up to the idea of integration and equality of races.

Baltimore, where the events of this movie takes place is in Maryland, which even though it was a suburb of Washington DC at the time as it is now, had a lot of sympathies with the segregationist South.  The city was not as liberal as say, New York, but it was not as dangerously intolerant of non-white races as say rural towns in Alabama or Georgia.  That is what makes this movie plausible.

In Baltimore of this story, there is a TV station (WYZT) which has a popular teenage dance show.  The show meister, Corny Collins is a young performer who is primarily interested in the success of his show and is not a bigot.  Corny  recognizes the natural talents of the Black dancers and is eager to integrate his all white dance show with the Negro Day which is a Black only dance show.  However, the station manager, Velma Von Tussle (Michelle Pfeiffer),  is a white conniving woman who was, at one point in time Miss Baltimore and has managed to sleep her way to the top.  She is trying to mold her rather dumb daughter Amber (Brittany Snow)  in the same mold to make her a success.   

The Corny Collins show is extremely popular with the teenagers and Tracy’s dream is to get on that show as a dancer, date and marry the lead dancer Link (Zac Efron) who is also a fellow student.  Link is already a star on the show because of his cool looks and dancing talent.

By a fluke of accident she makes her way to the show and because of her gyrating moves, which is more Negro than white, she becomes the star of the Corny Collins show.

The rest of the story is about Tracy and her family.  There is also a Civil Rights angle about Tracy and her friends,  hooking up with young black dancers and, trying to integrate the TV dance show and how Velma, the station manager,  tries to sabotage them and thrust her daughter forward to make her the Hairspray queen for the year. 

Well, Velma and the brutish Baltimore police fail to stop the clock and the good guys eventually win.  The Corny Collins TV show gets integrated and Tracy and Link become lovers.  We also see the first integrated kiss on television between a black boy Seaweed (Elijah Kelley)  and a white girl Amanda Bynes.  A likely story! The station would have probably been burnt down in 1962 for showing an interracial kiss.

The Music is what makes the movie so vibrant.  Marc Shaiman has created magnificent scores and much to our delight not a single one of them is sad or melancholy. 

The actors headed by Nikki Blonsky as Tracy are wonderfully cast.   In the initial scenes, John Travolta came across as rather gross and even a grotesque character.  He looked like a caricature out of a children’s comic book.  But, gradually, he got better and he fell into the role.   Christopher Walken as Wilbur Turnblad was typecast particularly well.  This guy is always cast as an off-beat and even sometimes a sinister character.  Does he ever get tired of playing the weirdo’s? 

Michelle Pfeiffer as Velma Von Tussle was a perfect bitch.  However, any skinny blonde can be bitchy!  For that matter, being nasty by repeating the scriptwriters’ words is not that difficult.  We also enjoyed watching the relative new comer Zac Efron who plays Link Larkin.  He is an astoundingly attractive person and will have a great future in the movies.  He will need more experience but we feel that he is on his way.

In 2006, we enjoyed watching Amanda Bynes in “She’s the Man” and we are pleased to note that, as we had predicted, she is turning out to be a good actress.  The director, Adam Shankman, had her hair coiffeured  with a doll like hairdo with ringlets and had her suck on a lollipop during almost her entire performance.  We assume that the lollipop was meant as a phallic symbol for her cravings that she could not gratify because of the time period and her strict mother.  That is, of course, until she met the chocolate fellow (Elijah Kelley) and had her first inter-racial kiss.

Also noteworthy is the performance by James Marsden as Corny Collins.  He exuded self confidence and a love of music and dancing while at the same time trying to make his show a commercial viable success.

The star of the movie, of course, was the short flabby Nikki Blonsky.  She is such a love!  Every parent should have a daughter with her never say die attitude. She has the grooves, the spirit and the spunk.  If General Custer had her as a trooper at Little Big Horne, he would not have lost the battle despite all the odds.  Nikki is a natural dancer.  Even when the camera is not focused on her, you can see her body moving to the beat of the music.  That kind of talent is not faked.  Many great actors have tried to portray dancers in their movies.  They all had to learn the trade superficially.  They were awkward and unbelievable.   

We loved the movie.  The director, Adam Shankman and Marc Shaiman the musical creator of the songs did a wonderful job of remaking a dull movie made twenty years ago into a vibrant exuberant movie for all ages.

We give this movie starstarstar 1/2.

This is wonderful movie for the entire family. 

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