Since my feelings about remakes are well-known, you could expect that I had my reservations about this film!
The original version of Hairspray (directed by John Waters and released in 1988) became a cult phenomenon in its own right. Then, they created a full-fledged Tony award-winning Broadway musical. Now they bring out a few feature film that goes more toward the musical, rather than the campy and outlandish of the first film.
Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky) is a heavy-set teenager in 1962 Baltimore. She’s a very well-rounded girl with a healthy self-esteem, who has two dreams: to dance on a local TV show, The Corny Collins Show, and end up with popular boy Link Larkin (Zac Efron), a classmate and ?council member? of the show.
She lives with her plus-sized mother, Edna (John Travolta) and goofy father (Christopher Walken). Edna isn?t really comfortable with going out in public at her large size, so she runs a laundering business out of the home. Wilbur runs his own joke shop just below their apartment. Her best friend, Penny Pingleton (Amanda Bynes) has a very religious and strict mother, but she likes to get out and have fun no matter what, usually resulting in punishment.
Now, Tracy knows she’s different and she likes it. Times are changing, and it’s going at full force. The underlying political issue in this movie is racial integration. While Corny Collins has a special day reserved for their African American audiences, hosted by Motormouth Maybelle, (Queen Latifah), Tracy was the first to stand up and demand equality for everyone. In her eyes, what was wrong with everyone being included? She becomes great friends with Seaweed Stubbs (Elijah Kelley), an African American student at her school, who teaches her new dances and helps broaden her view of the world around her.
Her main rival is Amber Von Tussle (Brittany Snow), Link’s girlfriend and the queen bee of the show. Amber doesn’t like Tracy or what she stands for, and she definitely doesn’t want to be knocked off her pedestal, so along with her equally opportunistic and manipulative mother (Michelle Pfeiffer), she does everything to take Tracy down!
Performance wise: It had comedy, some dramatic moments, and was absolutely entertaining! Everyone involved showed great musical and dancing ability! Newcomer Nikki Blonsky’s take on Tracy was a bit more angelic and I liked it, but I thought she didn’t light up the screen quite the way Ricki Lake did. Once she gets a few more film performances under her belt, we’ll see what she can really do.
They did keep the essence of the original material by casting a man in drag as Edna. Travolta could shake it in a 300 pound heavy suit, that’s for sure. But, on a somber note about our beloved Edna Turnblad? RIP, Divine. You were in my thoughts as I watched this.
However, there was the absence of the full-throttle campy goofiness of the original. Remember the increasing height of hair-do?s that was a great gag in the first movie? Check out supporting roles and cameos by some of the cast of the original flick! When the credits were rolling, the teenaged girls in the audience applauded for Zac Efron, who I?m guessing is the newest teen idol or something.
I do recommend this movie for its storyline, cinematography, all of it! As always, and this should be my mantra for remakes, it’s a companion piece! See the original back to back with this version, and you’ll get an experience that will hold in place forever, just like a great bottle of hairspray.
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