THE CAN-DO GAL WITH THE ‘DO
Good morning, Baltimore or whatever your name is. I’d been waking up with a fever lately. I’ve caught the great-musical sickness. Songs are caught looping inside my head. I hum, I whistle, I sing. I skip, I dance, and I swing. Help! Help me! I’m infected with happiness. I’m LOL-positive. Perhaps, I have inhaled too much “Hairspray.” Cough, cough! I was exposed to all of its three editions: the 1988 film, the Broadway show, and the 2007 movie. Could a video game dubbed “Hairspray Hero” be next?
“Hairspray,” in its third version, still takes place in Baltimore 1962, home of the hairspray-user Tracy Turnblad (a bouncy Nikki Blonsky). An avid fan of the dance show “The Corny Collins Show,” Tracy auditions to become one of the regular teen dancers. She’s turned away due to her voluminous size and support of racial integration. Lucky for Tracy, change’s a–coming; it’s time for the marginalized people to finally take center stage.
The best thing about the movie is the songs. With music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, the musical deftly captures the decade’s bob-your-head sweetness and empowered cries. This isn’t surprising to me because I’ve seen the Broadway show. I’m disappointed though that the movie left out the engaging song “Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now.” Among the new songs, I only like “The New Girl in Town.” Nevertheless, the movie’s soundtrack is still phenomenal. It’s so fun and lively; it is a cure for glum and lethargic days. The movie also benefits from Adam Shankman’s direction and choreography; his vivacious flair nicely complements the colorful music. I was impressed with the song numbers “Good Morning, Baltimore,” “The Nicest Kids in Town,” “I Can Hear the Bells,” “Run and Tell That,” “(You’re) Timeless to Me,” and of course, the rousing finale “You Can’t Stop the Beat.”
My slight problem with this movie is its lack of edge. John Waters’ indie movie had edge. The Broadway one had it too. The latest outing stinks of safe and popular professionalism, which is way off from the movie’s revolution spirit. Based on the cast alone, the movie looks Hollywood-ized. My reaction is mixed. Talented newcomers Blonsky and Elijah Kelly are dynamite. James Marsden has a surprisingly good singing voice. Queen Latifah, always the regal lady, couldn’t be more perfect. The rest of the actors are, uhm, okay. I was also troubled by the screenplay’s story altercations. The changes cater to the bigger stars so they could have more screen time. “Hairspray” scatters some of its focus. The story should have concentrated more on Tracy. She’s big enough of a personality to fill the movie. Overall, “Hairspray” is an accomplished musical – probably the most entertaining since “Chicago.” I don’t think it’s an Oscar contender, but it’s a musical sunshine in a disc. It’s gold on its own. Run and tell that.
Nikki Blonsky, John Travolta, Amanda Bynes, Queen Latifah, Michelle Pfeiffer, Zac Efron, Christopher Walken, Allison Janney, and James Marsden
Based on the 1988 film by
Also based on the 2002 Broadway musical written by
Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan
Rated PG for offensive language, some suggestive content and images of teenage smoking