Hairspray (2007)

I wanted to have a DailyView binge to honor the exceptional In the Heights, out this weekend. That meant a musical. I had several choices, but I wound up choosing the 2007 film, Hairspray. I had heard some negative comments about the movie, but I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw. In fact, I went to Rotten Tomatoes and it had a huge 91%. I don’t know where I heard the negative comments and I am so glad that I watched this.

It was wonderful.

John Travolta played Edna Turnblad, an overweight woman who was so embarrassed by her appearance that she had become an acrophobic, staying with her husband Wilbur (Christopher Walken). This is a role that has always been played by a man in drag, dating back to the original 1988 movie (drag performer Divine) and the stage musical (Harvey Fierstein). Travolta is known as a great dancer, including some iconic movie dance moments, so his casting as Edna is perfectly understandable.

Nikki Blonsky was the heart of this movie. Blonsky played he main protagonist Tracy Turnblad, a ‘pleasantly plump’ young girl whose dream was to dance on the Corny Collins Show and have a chance to be Miss Teenage Hairspray. Blonsky has such energy and joy in the performance that she is infectious. Utterly charming, Blonsky gives the audience an easy to cheer for lead who is a blast.

The messages, although fairly obvious, are great messages for today’s world. The film focuses not only on the way in which overweigh people are treated or looked at, but it also dives deeply into the Civil Rights movement and deals with interracial relationships and the integration of dancing on TV. Those messages made the final music number powerfully compelling and made me hopeful that the world could come together and show love instead of being such a divisive and hateful place.

I did not know any of the songs in the soundtrack, but they were all very catchy and enjoyable. Much like In the Heights, which I also did not know any of the songs, Hairspray’s music did not require me to be singing along to enjoy.

Besides Travolta, Walken and Blonsky, there is quite a diverse and amazing cast of actors. Queen Latifah showed her multiple talents as Motormouth Maybelle. Michelle Pfeiffer hammed it up as the villain of the piece, Velma Von Tussle. Tracy’s love interest was played by Zac Efron. There was also James Marsden, Amanda Bynes, Brittany Snow, Elijah Kelley, the always epic Allison Janney, Jerry Stiller, Paul Dooley, John Waters, and Jayne Eastwood.

I really enjoyed this movie and found it an emotional joy. If only all of the world’s problems could be solved by a dance number and a little hairspray.

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