Bruce Turnbull 25/07/2007
It's certainly been a while since I voluntarily went to see a movie that revolved around large women swinging their voices through the air like corpulent air raid sirens, but unlike most musicals, the remake of John Waters' 1988 original is an energetic slice of Hollywood exuberance that, if anything, is a refreshing distraction from the plethora of action-packed blockbusters this summer.
Tracey Turnblad is a rather overweight high school student with a penchant for singing and dancing, which coupled with an insalubrious obsession for handsome prime-time TV star Link Larkin, leads her to audition for a role as an additional dancer on his hit show. When she convinces Corny Collins - the ostentatious host played delightfully smarmy by Jason Marsden -her talents are satisfactory, she decides to bring down the gavel on his all white cast, and pleads for racial integration as opposed to the hideously derogatory Negro Day, which takes place once a week. But station manager Velma von Tussle (Michelle Pfeiffer) has another agenda, forcing Tracey and her band of Equality Crusaders to take drastic measures in order for their voices to be heard.
Generally, Hairspray is a very fun movie, with plenty of singing - a little too much, in fact - and not too much hard work when it comes to following the plot. The strange attributes to the story somehow hamper the film, leaving its audience a little bewildered as to what the movie is trying to achieve. There is no doubt that the dark, racist underpinning is extremely pertinent to the 60s backdrop, and with the mixed race cast of remarkably famous faces, the harmony that is so overtly sought after is quite real and in fact rather tangible. But when these serious issues are represented by an ineptly inappropriate medium such as this, it's hard to figure out if the message will get through at all. That being said, this is a musical, and as such the musical numbers are fabulously flamboyant with our lead actress Nikki Blonksy truly stealing the show with her monstrous voice, and enormous persona; John Travolta as Tracey's mother Edna is rather obscure but overly fun, with the sections between himself and husband Wilbur (Christopher Walken) being hilarious and not at all as toe curling as I had expected.
High School Musical's Zac Efron has grown up a bit, and as the ingratiating Link, proves a worthy addition to the cast. Furthermore, Queen Latifah, Amanda Bynes and Elijah Kelley turn out great performances, with a cool sense of refinement, and again, sporting amazing voices. The songs themselves are expertly written, with rather ingenious lyrics and no real clichéd value, but unfortunately the musical numbers are too copious, and only increase the running time, despite moving the story on little. The girls will love this, and the guys…well they'll probably hate it with every bone in their body, but if you can survive the opening credits without running out of the cinema, Adam Shankman's Hairspray is a decent alternative to the blockbuster heat wave stifling summer 2007.