Sunday, August 12, 2007

FILM: Hairspray

I have to admit I was a bit reluctant about going to see the new Hairspray movie this evening. Not that I didn't love the original film and the Broadway musical, just that I worried whether a new film couldn't live up to its inspirations. (Or that it could even live up to the charming one-man rendition of it by Mark Indelicato on Ugly Betty.) And I was also having trouble wrapping my mind around John Travolta filling the size 14 pumps of Harvey Fierstein or Bruce Villanch. Turns out I worried for naught. This new version totally rocks. It is a delightful 1950's kitsch-o-rama (haven't seen so many cars with fins since visiting Havana), and instead of being "stagey", the film takes full advantage of its medium to deliver creative visuals during the energetic numbers. The newly-minted star Nikki Blonsky had me at "oh oh oh" as she danced through the streets of working class Baltimore singing good morning and arriving triumphantly at school on top of a garbage truck. And to my surprise, Travolta gave Edna Turnblad a vulnerability that really grew on me. Queen Latifah delivered a star turn (but I expected no less), and Michelle Pfeiffer was excellently frosty as the scheming villainess you love to hate. Christopher Walken (whom I usually think of as a villain-type) was a mensch of a dad and showed some nice footwork in a charming dance sequence with Travolta. Zac Efron was perfect (and adorable!) as an Elvis-in-training heartthrob, and James Marsden (speaking of adorable) with his wholesome good looks and big white smile was a great dance show host Corny Collins. Amanda Bynes was very fun as Tracy's lollipop-sucking sidekick Penny, with the majorly uptight mother (Allison Janney). Elijah Kelley added great moves as Seaweed, and Jerry Stiller had a nice turn as Mr. Pinkey. The cast was all excellent, but I give the real congrats to director Adam Shankman who did an outstanding job of so creatively re-realizing this fun story. It was a rollicking romp for the eyes as well as the ears.

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