Hairspray full movie review - "Hairspray" celebrates diversity and individuality.
"Grease" star John Travolta follows in the footsteps of comedians Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence, and Tyler Perry in his movie "Hairspray" by dressing up in drag to portray a mountain of a matronly mom in a comedy.
Unlike Murphy, Lawrence, and Perry, however, Travolta plays wife and mother Edna Turnblad with sincerity and restraint. Of course, it's an audacious joke bordering on bad taste that Travolta would spend four hours a day climbing into a latex fat-suit to pull off this obvious female impersonation act, complete several wardrobe changes and dancing numbers. Nevertheless, Travolta doesn't treat his character as a joke. This reverence for Edna gives Travolta's performance, if you can call it that under all those cosmetics and appliances, a greater sense of depth and aligns our sympathy with shy, overweight Edna. When Travolta isn't turning heads, the rest of the cast, particularly newcomer Nikki Blonsky as Tracy, Edna's chubby daughter, makes a memorable debut. Mind you, "Hairspray" is a remake of director John Waters' 1988 movie that cast real-life drag queen Divine as Edna and gave Ricki Lake one of her earliest high profile roles as Tracy. Meanwhile, in director Adam Shankman's lively "Hairspray" remake, Travolta and Blonsky aren't the only two delivering stand-out performances. "X-Men's" James Marsden turns up his wattage as a TV dance show host, and slinky Michelle Pfeiffer as a haughty TV station manager Velma Von Tussle seems to be channeling Glenn Close's "101 Dalmatians" villainess Cruella de Vil.
"Hairspray" celebrates diversity and individuality. Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Bonsky) lives, breathes, and dreams about becoming a dancer on the popular local TV show "The Corny Collins Show." Moreover, she is head-over-heels infatuated with handsome young Link Larkin (Zac Efron of TV's "High School Musical") a dark-haired teen who attends her high school. Tracy inhabits a world of illusion and innocence. She sees everything through rose-colored glasses. In other words, reality hasn't yet put a pin in her bubble. Every morning Tracy wakes up and warbles the anthem of a local Baltimore TV Morning Show from the moment she rolls out of bed until she misses her school bus and catches a ride?singing along the way--atop a garbage truck. In a sense, musical comedies are a genre all to themselves where characters do strange things. Everybody is oblivious to Tracy as she sings her way to school. One day, Tracy's imperious teacher writes her a detention slip for "improper hair height," meaning, the boy behind her could not see over her poofed up hair. Like everything else in this funny, feel-good, but campy musical comedy, detention amounts to more of an opportunity than a penalty for Tracy. Presumably, Baltimore area schools were integrated as early as 1962, because Tracy finds the detention room thriving with African-Americans gyrating to their own musical beat. Just as these kids are about to dismiss Tracy as just another accommodating white girl, she impresses them, especially Seaweed (TV actor Elijah Kelley), with her own snappy dance numbers. Link is walking down the hall past the room when he hears all of the commotion and peeks in to see what is happening. He is almost instantly captivated by Tracy. Meanwhile, Tracy realizes where she has seen Seaweed. She saw him on "Negro Day," an African-American dancing show, and she loves Seaweed's rolls and rhythms. Tracy adores their once-a-week intrusion into white TV programming as heaven sent. "I wish everyday were Negro Day," she clamors with naïve sincerity.
Velma Von Tussle (Michelle Pfeiffer) doesn't share Tracy's sentiments. She cancels "Negro Day" and sends the host Motormouth Maybelle (Queen Latifah of "Set It Off") packing. Velma defends her action; she contends that "Negro Day" doesn't draw the ratings that "The Corny Collins Show" pulls. As far as that goes, Velma isn't enamored with Corny Collins (James Marsden) because he wants to integrate his own show. Integration is inevitable, Corny warns conceited Velma, but she turns a deaf ear to him. Afterward, Motormouth decides to protest Velma's decision to cancel "Negro Day" and rallies her friends to march with her on the TV station. Tracy commits herself to Motormouth's cause without a second thought, but image conscious Link backs out. He fears that his participation in a racial protest may jeopardize his career. At the same time, Tracy convinces her seamstress of a mom to venture out of their apartment and take the time to savor life. Initially, Edna is reluctant to leave the family's apartment, until she realizes that she has a voice of her own and decides to exercise it. When the protesters approach the TV station, Baltimore's Police Chief (Bruce McFee of "Land of the Dead") confronts Motormouth and orders her to disperse her group of marchers. Tracy smacks the Chief from behind with her protest sign, and everybody scatters with the authorities launching a manhunt for Tracy. Tracy wrestles with her dilemma. She knows that if she remains in hiding that the police won't find her. However, she realizes that she will have to endanger her freedom in order to win the Miss Teenage Hairspray crown from three-time winner Amber (Brittany Snow), Velma's stuck-up daughter.
Although "Hairspray" champions equal rights between blacks and whites and hallows integration over segregation, this lighthearted musical isn't so much concerned with clobbering moviegoers with its racially tolerant message as it is at making them feel good about a bygone era. At no time does "Hairspray" point fingers at either whites or blacks or take its racial themes as seriously as he could have. Vintage automobile enthusiasts will drool over the classic cars that cruise through the outdoors scenes from the 1960s. This cheerful 115 minute trip down nostalgia lane vibrates with one upbeat bubble-gum song after another, though some aren't as inspiring as others, with nary a downbeat moment. "Pacificer" director Adam Shankman, a former stage choreographer, keeps things humming throughout this PG-rated nonsense with its predictable ending. "Hairspray," like the product that it parodies, holds up under pressure.