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July 2007

By Wilson Morales


Distributor: New Line Cinema
Director: Adam Shankman
Producers: Craig Zadan and Neil Meron
Screenwriter: Leslie Dixon, based on the 1988 screenplay by John Waters and the 2002 musical stage play, book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan
Composer: Marc Shaiman
Cast: John Travolta, Queen Latifah, Michelle Pfeiffer, Nikki Blondsky, Christopher Walken, Amanda Bynes, Allison Janney, Brittany Snow, Zac Efron, Elijah Kelley, James Marsden, Jerry Stiller,


For all those folks who thought that the musical genre would start to fade out slowly because the last few big pictures haven’t produced the numbers that studios were looking for, think again. With “Chicago” going all the way to win Best Picture at the Oscar, that benchmark was set high and films like “Rent” and “The Producers” failed to capitalized on that success, but little do people know that those films have picked up new fans via DVD. And now comes the release of “Hairspray”, which is in a new class by itself. Sixteen years after the release of the original film, New Line Cinema is bringing a feature film adaptation of the Tony award-winning Broadway production "Hairspray" to life. With John Travolta putting on the fat suit and a fantastic debut from Nikki Blondsky, this film, regardless of whether it does well or not at the box office, is probably one of the best transitions from stage to screen. From casting to the production design to the musical numbers, it’s aces all around. It’s fun, hilarious, and well hell of a crowd-pleaser!

The time is 1962 and the hottest thing on TV is “The Corny Collins Shows” and when Tracy Turnblad (Blondsky) wakes up and sings “Good Morning Baltimore”, she’s jubilliant enough to think she has a shot to get on the show. As she and her best friend Penny Pingleton (Bynes) go to school, the hours she thinks of nothing but the show. When she goes out for the show, she runs into Amber Von Tussle (Snow), the reigning blonde on the show, whose mother, Velma (Pfeiffer), is a high authority there. Velma wants more for the show and looks to dispense its “Negro Day”, which is hosted by Motormouth Maybelle (Queen Latifah).

Sent to detention one day, Tracy runs into a new crowd, the black crowd, and rather than feel nervous or scared, she bonds instantly and learns the bumps and grinds of dancing, thanks to her newest friend, Seaweed J. Stubbs (Kelley), whose mom is Motormouth. With this “latest” dance move, Tracy wows the audience and lands a spot on the show.

Once Tracy tells her mom, Edna (Travolta) and dad Wilbur (Walken), reluctant at first, Edna gives in and lets Tracy do her thing. She, of course, is another story, having been ashamed of herself due to her weight. Sensing favoritism towards Tracy and a possible upstaging of her status of role on the show not only affect the Von Tussles, but Amber’s boyfriend Linc Larkin (Efron) and Tracy are starting to have chemistry to her disliking. This sets the stage for some backstabbing, rebellion, and upheaval in the town where the show is the focal point to course of everyone’s lives.

As much as Travolta is made up and is the biggest name in the cast, he or rather “she” doesn’t have a commanding presence in the film. That belongs to newcomer Nikki Blondsky, who was born for the role. The girl’s on cloud nine with the role and turns in a winning performance. Travolta, known at times for his dance moves on films, doesn’t hesistate to strut his feet here and his dance scene with Walken is a delight. Shankman, whose previous film was “Cheaper by the Dozen 2” certainly has reinvented himself with this film, turning actors like Blondsky and Kelley, whose ‘Run and Tell That’ performance is one of the standout numbers, into stars. Pfeiffer, who’s not known for her comedic skills at all, displays some funny bones here and is an absolute joy to see back on the screen. Latifah, who’s getting used to doing musical, having done “Chicago” as well, is as smooth as with her other roles in the past. Efron, already a teenage hearthrob from his “High School Musical” fans, provves that his he’s got the acting and singing chops. At a time when racism was still a factor in certain areas, “Hairspray” brings all that to light and its creator John Waters was instrumental in bringing out the disparity in color and weight. With many musical numbers, the standout will be “You Can’t Stop The Beat”, where most of the cast get to strut the moves and lungs and feet the crowd to its feet.