Honestly, I can’t remember the first time I saw Hairspray. I thought the first time I saw it was in 1981 when I was living in Boston. It was a terribly hot day in the middle of August and my friend Audrey and I (Audrey is a total blast from the past who I am not even sure where she is) went to see a movie to beat the heat. Today, while searching IMDB, I realized that the movie I saw was Polyester. Obviously John Waters films have not made such a big impact on me. All I remember is a movie by John Waters. I didn’t really like it but I totally loved the air conditioning and the popcorn. Alas.
Fast forward, many many years, Hairspray comes to the live theater. Jessica and I go on a date night and go see the musical/play. Glad I saw it but didn’t love it. I have never been a big fan of the actual script. I like the premise of Hairspray but it never rocked my world. For all of you who have never seen Hairspray, the story takes place in 1962. The world is changing. Integration is changing the world. Heavy girl who lives in Baltimore and loves to dance and loves the brothers is enamored with the local dancing TV show (think Soul Train with white people). She tries out, makes the show. The TV manager is aghast that a fat white chick named Tracy Turnblad who doesn’t fit in could actually be on her lily white show. Not only that, Tracy, who is absolutely full of life and adorable wants to integrate her TV show because not only is she a good soul, she doesn’t think color should make any difference. A do good story with funny songs and bizarre characters who in the end prevail.
Hairspray, the movie, just hit the movie theaters this week. There has been a lot of good early press. Rotten Tomatoes was giving Hairspray a 95% which is pretty incredible since the ratings are all user generated. How could we not go?
Keep in mind that I am not a fan of musicals, at all. But, regardless, we went. As I said earlier, I never loved the script but I really adored Hairspray the movie. Why? For an endless amount of reasons. First of all, it is beyond well cast. Everyone is talented, they sing, they dance and they look damn good. The songs are funny. There are a lot of one liners that are so quick that you have to pay attention to hear them. First time on the silver screen actress, Nicole Blonsky, lights up the screen. Michelle Pfeiffer plays the ultimate bitch. Christopher Walken, who would have thought he could sing? I love Amanda Bynes and Queen Latifah belts it out and as we all now can act. I could go on and on but my all time favorite is John Travolta. I have loved Travolta since he swung those hips as Vinnie Barbarino on Welcome Back Kotter. Then he went on to dance his heart out on Saturday Night Fever and Grease. Travolta, acting as a large insecure woman, was brilliant. He made me just laugh out loud. Grease, which, in my opinion is the best musical ever to come to the screen has met its match with Hairspray. Travolta was in both, quite impressive.
Would I tell everyone to run out and see Hairspray? I am not so sure because musicals are tough. But as I said, the casting was brilliant, the choreography was fantastic, the costumes were right on, the songs kept you entertained as they cut back and forth to different people singing them in different shots, the movie was less than 2 hours, the colors were bright as they should be for this film, it was so campy that I couldn’t help but enjoy myself.
This film could easily end up being a classic that is watched again and again by teenage audiences everywhere. Bravo to Adam Shankman, the director and New Line Cinema for putting this out. Huge risk but it appears that the pay off is going to be bigger.