Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Hairspray

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for language, some suggestive content and momentary teen smoking.
Profanity:Brief crude language
Nudity/Sex:Kisses, joke about teen pregnancy
Alcohol/Drugs:Alcoholic, drinking and smoking (including teen smoking)
Violence/Scariness:Tense confrontations
Diversity Issues:A theme of the movie
Movie Release Date:2007

I am not sure which is the more amusingly surprising — the idea that one of the most painful struggles in American history could become the subject of a light musical comedy, or the idea that it comes from one of the most profoundly transgressive writer/directors in film history. Nineteen years after John Waters’ most accessible film, Hairspray gave us an irresistible heroine whose mastery of the Madison and audacious hair-teasing helped to bring about integration of a teen dance television show. Later, it became a wildly successful Broadway musical. And now it returns to the screen with an all-star cast of Hollywood heavyweights (so to speak), starring an adorable newcomer, Nikki Blonsky. Like all good Cinderella stories, this one has some grounding in reality, as this is Blonsky’s first professional role and she was working at her job at an ice cream store when she got the word she had the part.


Blonsky plays the irrepressible Tracy Turnblad, the daughter of the ever-ironing Edna (John Travolta) and Wilbur (Christopher Walken), the owner of the “Ha Ha Hut,” a whoopee cushion and handshake buzzer emporium.

In her opening number Tracy greets her home city of 1962 Baltimore, with unabashed affection for everyone from the neighborhood flasher (played by Waters) to the bum on the barstool. Like every self-respecting musical comedy heroine, Tracy has a dream. She wants to appear on the popular teen dance program, “The Corny Collins Show.” Lo and behold, an opening occurs and she auditions. Station manager Velma Von Tussle (Michele Pfeiffer), a former “Miss Baltimore Crabs,” whose standards of beauty are limited to the blonde and willowy, whose standards of inclusion are limited to the Aryan and WASP-y, and whose standards of appropriate behavior are unlimited when it comes to whatever will make her daughter Amber (Brittany Snow) Miss Hairspray for the third time. Velma sees short and chubby Tracy as a threat to everything she believes and wants, especially when she flunks the interview question about integrated swimming pools.


Segregation was not limited to the South in the pre-Civil Rights Act era, and the “Corny Collins Show” is all-white, all the time, except for the once a month “Negro Day” hosted by Motormouth Maybelle (Queen Latifah). At a dance, the white and black kids are separated by a rope. Tracy does a dance she learned from Seaweed J. Stubbs (an electrifying Elijah Kelley) (with his permission) and lands a spot on the show.


Things heat up when Negro Day gets cancelled and Tracy and her friends organize a protest march. Velma goes to extremes to stop Tracy from being named Miss Hairspray. And everyone sings and dances through it all, and it is sweet and funny and as much fun as a sock hop where everyone gets asked to dance.

Parents should know that even though the movie is rated PG it has some mild content issues including humorous references to teen pregnancy, a flasher (played by writer/director Waters), alcoholism, teenagers stuffing bras and pants, and some potty humor. Characters smoke and drink, including smoking by teens and by pregnant women. There is some mild language in lyrics and dialogue (“I screwed the judges,” “French kissing,” “kiss my ass”). Amber tries to destroy Tracy’s reputation by spreading rumors that she did a crude drawing of the teacher and had sex with the football team. Characters are upset by suggestive dance moves. As in all previous versions of this story, a female character is portrayed by a male actor, though there is no suggestion that she is a male in drag or anything but completely female. The movie deals with themes of racial discrimination and some characters make racist and other bigoted comments. A strength of the movie is its frank (if idealized) portrayal of some issues of the civil rights era, though, like most mainstream films, it focuses on the white characters and their roles.


Families who see this movie should ask why Tracy was so free from the assumptions and fears of her household and her community. It is almost impossible for today’s children and teenagers to imagine that within the lifetimes of their parents and grandparents such blatant racism was an accepted way of thinking. Families should see films like Boycott and Eyes on the Prize for a better sense of the courage and determination of the real-life heroes of the civil rights movement.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the original and another musical set in the same era, That Thing You Do!.



  • Shawna

    This review stated that there was no profanity however Zac Efron does say ‘kiss my ass’ in one scene. Not major but something my children are not allowed to repeat. Just thought I’d mention that.

  • Nell Minow

    Thanks, Shawna! I have amended the review to note that there is some crude language. I really appreciate your taking the time to write.

Previous Posts

Trailer: Effie Gray, Starring Dakota Fanning and Emma Thompson
Emma Thompson won an Oscar for her "Sense and Sensibility" screenplay. She wrote and stars in "Effie Gray," with Dakota Fanning, the real-life story of the Victorian art critic, John Ruskin (David Suchet), and his much-younger bride, Effie Gray. Tom Sturridge plays John Millais, the artist she mar

posted 3:30:30pm Sep. 17, 2014 | read full post »

New MacArthur Genius Award Winners Include Alison Bechdel and Joshua Oppenheimer
It is always a treat to see the worthy awardees of the MacArthur Foundation's "genius grants." The foundations awards are unique because you cannot apply for them and there are no restrictions on the use of the money given to the recipients. The awards committee reviews the work of people making ex

posted 9:53:29am Sep. 17, 2014 | read full post »

Happy Birthday US Constitution!
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzAJyK0ovo8[/youtube] It was on September 17, 1789 that the US Constitution was approved. The Bill of Rights was not added until later, but let's celebrate that, too. How many can you name? This will help you remember them. [youtube]https://www.youtu

posted 8:00:21am Sep. 17, 2014 | read full post »

Trailer: Days and Nights With Katie Holmes and Allison Janney
Inspired by Chekhov's "The Seagull," this is the story of a weekend at a country house that includes a famous actress, her discontented son, and people who love the wrong people and are angry at each other -- sometimes at the same time. [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEs6vXztmBM[/youtub

posted 8:00:41am Sep. 16, 2014 | read full post »

Trailer: Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in "Serena"
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence re-team in "Serena," which looks very intriguing but does not yet have a US release date. Stay tuned. [iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/-wFHiZHZVaU?rel=0" frameborder="0"]

posted 8:00:35am Sep. 16, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.