Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, January 29, 2015


Mother and daughter: John Travolta and Nikki Blonsky
HAIRSPRAY (2007). Director: Adam Shankman.

"If we get any more white people in here this'll be a suburb."

Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky) manages to get on Baltimore's Corny Collins dance program where she earns the scorn of Amber Von Tussle (Brittany Snow) and her mother, Velma (Michelle Pfeiffer), who happens to be station manager. Will Tracy win the coveted Auto Show crown and integrate the Corny Collins show as well? The original Hairspray was turned into a Broadway musical, and this is less of a remake of the film as it is a screen adaptation of the stage work. Instead of classic rock songs we get some generic "Broadway" tunes, although a couple of them ["I Love You, Baltimore"] are catchy, and the black anthem "There's a Dream" is memorable. Still, this version is in virtually every way inferior to the original, lacking charm and with too heavy an approach. Water's Hairspray made its points on integration in a light, satirical way that got it across without pounding you on the head with its "message" but this Hairspray says the same things, however admirable, over and over and over again. It's like a Black Pride movie made mostly by white people; except for Queen Latifah [Mad Money], the stars are all white, too. It also has a sub-text of what you might call Fat Pride, but can't resist more than its quota of fat jokes with Tracy and her mother constantly being offered something to eat. The only performers who make any kind of impression (in the right way) are Michelle Pfeiffer [Grease 2] and Queen Latifah (wearing Ruth Ford's blond wig from the original?). As Tracy's friend Penny, Amanda Bynes is too old and too sophisticated, and the less said about John Travolta [Carrie] in drag as Edna Turnblad the better. Some members of the supporting cast are perfectly okay (James Marsden in his limited screen time as Corny Collins; Zac Efron as Link) but Jerry Stiller again fails to impress, this time in the role of Big Gal clothing shop owner, Mr. Pinky. At least Travolta and Christopher Walken (playing Mr. Turnblad) seem to be having fun with their number "You're Timeless to Me." The movie eventually becomes quite boring, which you can't say about the original.

Verdict: Some things should be left alone. **.


angelman66 said...

Agreed, this was not a good picture. A shame, because the stage version is adorable and I do like the musical score.

Much as I give Travolta kudos for taking on the role as an acting challenge, I just don't want to see Danny Zuko or Tony Manero in a fat suit and frumpy dress...would love to see him do a movie musical as the mature seasoned man he now is...

William said...

Yes, Travolta can sing and dance so he might make a good Broadway leading man in the right role. We'll see.