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Hairspray - The Remake

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Is anyone going to watch this? I got premiere tickets to see it tomorrow. I will let you know my thoughts afterwards. I love the original, but am always skeptical about remakes...


Review: `Hairspray' Is Innocent Fun

Published: 7/17/07, 3:46 PM EDT


(AP) - The world probably didn't need another film version of John Waters' 1988 romp "Hairspray" any more than it needed a Broadway musical version of it. The whole cycle reeks of that movie-of-a-stage-production-of-a-movie debacle that has tainted the legacy of "The Producers."


Having said that, this new brand of "Hairspray" is a hybrid of its predecessors: enormously entertaining but with only faint traces of Waters' signature dark, kitschy humor. It is, in a word, safe - one you would ordinarily never use to describe Waters' work.


Director and choreographer Adam Shankman keeps the tone light, the hair high and the pacing snappy, even while delivering the film's segregation-is-bad message, which seems archaic and obvious 45 years after the movie's setting. (Shankman certainly shows a more deft touch here than he did with "Bringing Down the House" and "The Pacifier.")


But there is something refreshing in the innocence of the film, written by Leslie Dixon based on both Waters' script and the 2002 Broadway hit. No winking, no mugging - just earnest, wholesome, knock-your-socks-off fun. You'll probably be tempted to burst into applause at the end of the splashier numbers, as several people in the audience did during a recent screening in Hollywood. (The music comes from Marc Shaiman with lyrics by Shaiman and Scott Wittman, Tony winners for the stage version.)


Much of the movie's charm radiates from 18-year-old newcomer Nikki Blonsky, an absolute delight as the film's plus-sized protagonist, Tracy Turnblad, the role that made a then-unknown Ricki Lake a star 20 years ago. She's just so darn perky, so unflappably sunny as she belts her way through the opening tune, "Good Morning Baltimore," she makes it impossible to resist getting caught up in her enthusiasm.


Tracy's greatest dream is to make it as a dancer on "The Corny Collins Show," which she and best friend Penny Pingleton (a cute but stiff Amanda Bynes) scurry home to watch on TV after school - that is, until she discovers the racial discrimination that plagues the program. The show's regulars are billed as "the nicest kids in town," but they're not exactly a diverse bunch. That's why there's Negro Day with host Motormouth Maybelle (Queen Latifah), which only comes once a month - though, as Tracy gushes, she wishes every day were Negro Day.


She gets her chance to shake things up when Corny (a perfectly slick James Marsden) notices her during a dance competition. This allows her to show off the new moves she learned from the black kids in detention, including Seaweed (Elijah Kelley), who happens to be Maybelle's son. Kelley, whose biggest role before this was as a dancer in the forgettable "Take the Lead," is hugely charismatic - great-looking, likable, a talented singer and dancer and as much of a discovery as Blonsky herself.


Trouble is, the brittle station manager Velma Von Tussle (Michelle Pfeiffer) isn't terribly fond of chubby girls or blacks, and feels especially inspired to unleash her wrath when Tracy starts stealing attention from her daughter, Amber (Brittany Snow), the show's spoiled star. From there, it doesn't take long for Tracy to attract Amber's boyfriend, the dreamy Link Larkin (the dreamy Zac Efron from "High School Musical"). Scheming, romance and race riots ensue - and, of course, more singing and dancing.


Sitting at home in her robe, ironing and watching all these developments from the safety of her row house with a mixture of apprehension and excitement, is Tracy's tubby mother, Edna, played famously by John Travolta in drag. As inhabited by Divine in the original film and Harvey Fierstein on Broadway, the part is intended to be portrayed with high camp.


With Travolta, though, there's no sense of fun. He plays it straight, for lack of a better word, and with a touch of pathos. The joke is completely lost, and you never lose sight of the fact that you're watching the star of "Grease" and "Saturday Night Fever," this time brandishing his trademark dance moves while wearing a fat suit.


"Hairspray," a New Line Cinema release, is rated PG for language, some suggestive content and momentary teen smoking. Running time: 117 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.

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If nothing else it should hopefully be a good springboard for Amanda Bynes' career. That girl has mad talent potential if she'll not get typecast for once.


Not to mention the fact that I would so do her.



Anyway... Travolta in drag! Has the world gone mad?

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