Hairspray

The nominations:

  • None

The Black-and-White:

This is my first review in the 2007 movie section (for the 2008 Academy Awards). At time of writing, the nomination for the Academy Awards is still 4 days away, so I don’t know if Hairspray will actually be nominated (nor, due to the writer’s strike, do I know if there will even be an Academy Awards this year!). But this one seems like a contender, so I start this year’s analyses with it:

Fun! This is a joyful movie (and thank goodness after the unmitigated stream of depression that were the movies of 2006). Now it had good material to begin with; John Waters wrote the 1988 stage screenplay, and has a co-writer credit for the movie. Incidently, a lot of folks say that I resemble John Waters. What do you think?

Honestly, I’m not sure I can tell the difference.

Here’s the IMDB synopsis of the film:

Tracy Turnblad, an overweight teenager with all the right moves, is obsessed with the Corny Collins Show. Every day after school, she and her best friend Penny run home to watch the show and drool over the hot Link Larkin, much to Tracy’s mother Edna’s dismay. After one of the stars of the show leaves, Corny Collins holds auditions to see who will be the next person on the Corny Collins show. With all of the help of her friend Seaweed, Tracy makes it on the show, angering the evil dance queen Amber Von Tussle and her mother Velma. Tracy then decides that it’s not fair that the black kids can only dance on the Corny Collins Show once a month, and with the help of Seaweed, Link, Penny, Motormouth Maybelle, her father and Edna, she’s going to integrate the show…..without denting her ‘do!

What I liked about the movie: first, the actors did a great job. There were true gems, like Allison Janney in a minor role as Prudy Pingleton; I think it should be mandatory that she trip over tables in every movie she does. She could be a female Chevy Chase (and I mean that in the most complimentary way). Main character performances by Christopher Walken and John Travolta as husband and wife Wibur and Edna Turnblad were just plain old sweet (and boy I would have never predicted that in my life I would ever write a sentence like this one…) The lead, Nikki Blonsky as Tracy Turnblad, was simply lovely. She has an electric smile, and even though the sticky sweet “what if” plot may be enough to leave you in a convulsive sugar-high, her honesty and purity with the character were enough to make me believe, and make me want more.

The songs and music were an enjoyable romp. Look, in general I don’t like musicals. I liked this one. That surprised me.

One main bugaboo I have about a lot of movies in general is that the characters don’t evolve. They begin as a grim person, have some nasty crap happen to them, triumph, and then grimly have sex with another character in the movie. Ug. In Hairspray, however, the characters do have a journey. They do evolve. It’s not a long journey, I’ll admit, but they still end up, for better or worse, in a different place than we met them when the curtain first lifted. Bravo.

So, this is a good, fun movie. What might it be nominated for, you ask? I’d say costume design, perhaps. Adapted screenplay is a possibility. Unfortunately I don’t think any of the music is original (I may be wrong) so obvious choices like original song and score may not apply. Pity. I do think the actors could get a nod, although given the genre, it’s a long shot.

Overall, a very good film. Well shot, well directed, well acted. Keep ’em coming.

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