In Theatres: 
Feb 26, 1988
Running Time: 
1 Hour, 33 Minutes

No one likes a huge effects laden summer blockbuster more than me and while I had heard that “Hairspray” was getting rave reviews, I am always skeptical of musicals, especially one featuring John Travolta in drag.  Luckily, the buzz for this fantastic musical romp was dead on and “Hairspray” is an excellent movie adaptation of the popular Broadway show, adapted from John Water’s 1988 film. The movie was perfectly cast with a huge roster of well-known, talented and Oscar nominated stars and one chubby little newcomer from New Jersey.

Adam Shankman directed and choreographed this delightful film that everyone can enjoy. The musical numbers were well-paced, well-balanced and didn’t overwhelm the film, but added a lightness that took it to the next level. Shankman and screenwriter Leslie Dixon, with their dynamic direction, dialogue and lyrics, have easily avoided this film being dubbed a carbon copy remake of either the Broadway show or the Waters film and not only made it their own – but made it better on all counts.

The opening number where we meet Nikki Blonsky as Tracy Turnblad was in turns inspiring and irreverent with its upbeat tempo, choreography and lyrics. Newcomer Blonsky proves she was born for this role and is the foundation and heart on which the entire movie rests.

It’s 1962 in Baltimore, MD and teenager Tracy Turnblad’s dream is to dance on the local teen dance TV show “The Corny Collins Show”. When one of their female dancers leaves the show, Tracy has her big chance to shine – but is blocked by the small-minded station manager, Velma Von Tussle, whose perfect daughter is the star of the show and a shoo-in for this year’s Miss Hairspray.

Tracy, an open-minded teen can tear up the dance floor, foils Von Tussle and dances her way into the coveted spot on the show and in the running for the Miss Hairspray title. Tracy knows what it’s like to be discriminated against due to her appearance and when “Negro Day” is cancelled on dance show, she takes up action to fight for integration on local TV.

John Travolta, while somewhat distracting in a female role that has a history of being played by men, was surprisingly light on his feet as Edna Turnblad in his scenes and dance numbers. We all know that Travolta is known for his dancing, but what struck me the most about Travolta’s performance was the expressiveness of his eyes – they really did a great job at portraying Edna as someone who feared the world’s opinion of her and who is easily hurt.

More perfect casting with Queen Latifa as Motormouth Maybelle, in her strongest performance since her Oscar-nominated turn in “Chicago”, and Michelle Pfeiffer channeling her “Fabulous Baker Boys” vamp with her portrayal as the manipulative Velma Von Tussle. James Marsden shows there is more to him than his X-Man alter-ego “Cyclops” as the progressive dance show host Corny Collins.

Providing some comic relief is Christopher Walken as Wilbur Turnblad, who also proves to be light on his feet during his dance numbers with Travolta. Walken is one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood and as soon as I saw his name in the credits, I knew this was going to be a fun movie.

The two up and coming hot actors to watch in this film are Elijah Kelly and Zac Effron, who play Seaweed J. Stubbs and Link Larkin. Kelly is amazingly talented and really shines in his performance both as the triple threat of dancer, singer and actor. Effron is this generation’s Jake Ryan, as his teen dream character throws over the perfectly coiffed, but cold, princess Amber von Tussel (played perfectly by American Dreams Brittney Snow) for the unconventional love of the warm-hearted and generous Tracy Turnblad.

Don’t let the musical aspect of this film make you hesitate a second when making your plans to hit the theaters. This movie is brimming with so many amazing performances and heart, that everyone who sees it will come out smiling.

Review by Wendy Rutherford