Move Over Ricki Here's Nikki
I've never watched the original version of "Hairspray" reason being that whilst meant to be his most accessible movie I find the creativity of John Walters a bit too much for my liking. And to be honest I'm not sure I will watch it because having watched the 2007 version of "Hairspray" I don't think it would match up that well. Not that I am saying that this newest version of "Hairspray" is a good musical, being slim on story is one of a few issues which stop it from rising to the top of the ladder. But it is so good fun and has an infectious energy which sucks you in and keeps you entertained from start to finish.
Teenager Tracy Turnblad (Amanda Bynes - She's the Man) maybe a little rotund but she certainly has the moves and would love nothing more to be a dancer on the Corny Collins Show, the show which she and her best friend Penny (Amanda Bynes - She's the Man) live for. So when a dancing slot comes up on the show Tracy tries out, much to the disapproval of her mother Edna (John Travolta - Wild Hogs). But with the help of Penny and some other friends Tracy makes it on to the show much to the annoyance of Amber Von Tussle (Brittany Snow) and her mother Velma (Michelle Pfeiffer - I Could Never Be Your Woman) who not only dislike Tracy they also dislike how popular she is. And to make matters worse when Tracy suggests they should do away with the monthly show for black kids and integrate the entire Corny Collins Show she becomes enemy number one.
One of the things I always judge a musical on is how much of it I remember after a few days, especially the soundtrack and to be honest whilst I enjoyed every single musical number whilst watching "Hairspray" there are only a couple I can remember and one of those is "You Can't Stop the Beat" which I'd already heard. Now there is a reason for this and that reason is that director Adam Shankman creates such an energetic movie that whilst you enjoy it and remember certain things such as John Travolta in a fat suit the little details end up less memorable. Not that I am complaining because to be honest "Hairspray" like so many musicals is slim on storyline and is all about the fun be it the singing and dancing, the amusing lyrics and in this case the characters.
But whilst "Hairspray" is slim on storyline it is a fun storyline which takes us back to 1962 and when Baltimore was segregated. And at the heart of this storyline we have the Corny Collins Show and Tracy Turnblad leading a revolution not only by becoming a dancer on the show but leading a campaign to end segregation. Trust me when I say there is no depth to this at all but it does work and the basis of the storyline about bigoted viewpoints can be transferred to any set up.
Part of the reason why "Hairspray" is such a fun affair is that it is full of humour, be it something as obvious as John Travolta dragged up or the amusing lyrics to various songs. Even the whole pastiche of 60s culture is brilliant and James Marsden as the grinning Corny Collins is simply great at delivering the sense of cheesiness. But it is also that for a movie which is about racism there is humour in it which I am sure the PC brigade would look down on yet it is so self depreciating and treats everyone equally that the spirit of this humour comes across.
The other reason is that "Hairspray" is non stop musical, from beginning to end it feels like one song after another. Now as I've mentioned the songs are strangely not that memorable yet you remember the energy they deliver and how it made you feel. So you remember smiling a lot be it when Queen Latifah sings "Big, Blonde and Beautiful" or Elijah Kelley sings and dances through "Run and Tell That". And you also remember the dancing with everyone in the cast delivering fantastically energetic performances but as I said with the exception of a couple of songs you don't really remember them.
What you certainly do remember are the wonderful performance be it James Marsden as Corny Collins or Zac Efron as Link Larkin, you even remember the blink and you will miss it cameo from John Walters. In fact it has to be said that "Hairspray" has a very impressive cast which includes Brittany Snow, Amanda Bynes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken plus of course John Travolta in a fat suit. But whilst no one puts in a bad performance and it is their combined enthusiasm which makes it so much fun it is the debut performance of Nikki Blonsky as Tracy Turnblad which is so wonderful. The fact that this was Blonsky's first movie is just amazing as she is so confident and she is also both funny, sincere and a great singer at the same time. To put it simply Blonsky makes Tracy loveable and no matter how hard hearted you are you can't help but love her.
What this all boils down to is that "Hairspray" is 117 minutes of singing and dancing fun which whisks you off on a wave of energy and never lets go. It's by no means a great movie and to be honest many of the musical numbers end up being strangely forgettable, but it is entertaining from start to finish and puts you in a fantastic mood whilst watching it.