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Genre: Musical/Comedy
Rated: PG
Directed by:
Adam Shankman
John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Queen Latifah, James Marsden, Nikki Blonsky, Zac Efron
Released by: New Line Cinema

In Short: Candy colors, infectious music, energetic dancing and a message make Hairspray an instant classic.

Hairspray is the Word
by Andrew Bender

"Good morning, Baltimore!” belts Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray’s opening number, her voice sunny and her spirit more so. Even the rats, the flasher and the bum brighten her day as she dances to high school. It’s a veritable Fantasy Land on the Chesapeake, set in candy-colored, bouncy-skirted, slick-haired 1962, when teenagers used words like “groovy” before they became clichés.

John Travolta and Nikki Blonsky
Amanda Bynes and Allison Janney

Tracy (Nikki Blonsky) will need her optimism to realize her dream: dancing on the Corny Collins Show on local TV, where teenagers rock to the latest tunes. Talent notwithstanding, Tracy is—how shall we put this?—fat. And fat girls—how shall we put this?—don’t get on Corny Collins, as prim station owner (and one-time beauty queen “Miss Baltimore Crabs”) Velma von Tussle (Michelle Pfeiffer) explains. African-Americans don’t either, apart from monthly “Negro Day,” and therein lies the heart of this story.

Hairspray stands on its own, even if you haven’t seen the Broadway musical it’s based on or the 1988 John Waters film that inspired the musical. The dancing is electric, the story engaging, the music fizzy and bubbly, and there’s a message. By rights, Hairspray should become for our generation what Grease was to the late ‘70s.

Queen Latifah
Michelle Pfeiffer

Speaking of Grease, John Travolta of that film also gets top billing here, as Tracy’s mom, Edna. He speaks like Carol Channing and sings like Cher, but there’s a special spark when he’s dancing—he’s still got the moves, even with 100 extra pounds and makeup slathered on with a trowel. Travolta’s surrounded by a top-name ensemble cast including Pfeiffer, Queen Latifah as the hostess of Negro Day, and Christopher Walken as Edna’s husband, Wilbur. The stars of tomorrow—Zac Efron of High School Musical, Amanda Bynes, Elijah Kelley and Brittany Snow—make up the younger set, while James Marsden is charming and knowing as Corny.

The film really belongs to Blonsky, though. Her own story—she was scooping ice cream at a Cold Stone Creamery on Long Island before landing this role—is not so unlike Tracy’s. We couldn’t be happier for either of them.


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