Idol Chatter

hairspray_idol.jpgI haven’t had the pleasure of seeing the Broadway version of “Hairspray,” but I do remember not being a big fan of the original movie by John Waters. (For some reason, it was just a little too creepy for me.) But none of that mattered as I watched the latest incarnation of the 1960’s spoof that came to the theaters this past weekend.
A stellar cast, including John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Queen Latifah and adorable newcomer Nikki Blonsky, puts their own spin on the be-bop world of a second-rate dance show in Baltimore. While it is certainly not easy to adapt extravagant Broadway shows to the big screen (Think about last year’s “Dreamgirls”) this “Hairspray” has the right amount of sweetness, silliness, smarts, and sass to make it one of the most enjoyable movies I’ve watched in a long time. Even if you are not a huge theater geek like me, I dare you to sit through this movie and not smile, tap your feet, or feel inspired to be kinder to your fellow man.
Of course the success of any version of “Hairspray” rests almost solely on the portrayal of chubby, bubbly Tracy Turnblad (Blonsky), the sixteen-year-old teen obsessed with the local teen dance show, “The Corny Collins Show.” Despite her stature, Tracy dreams of become one of the cool kids from her high school who dances on the “American Bandstand”-style program. When she spends a day in detention with a few of the black kids who occasionally dance on the show (once a month the show has “Negro Day”),Tracy really learns how to shake her groove thing and becomes an overnight Baltimore sensation for her dancing ability as well as for her cockeyed optimism. When she announces on the show that she wishes “every day could be Negro Day,” she begins a civil rights stir that leads to a protest to integrate the dancers on “The Corny Collins Show.”

But even if the cheeky storyline and Blonsky’s performance doesn’t wow you, there are a myriad of other reasons to appreciate this movie. Reasons like … Christopher Walken (he plays Tracy’s dad) is in a musical–finally!! And I like John Tavolta in drag as Tracy’s mom, Edna, way better than I like his performance as Danny Zuko in “Grease” And how can anyone not appreciate the double entendre of Pfeiffer, who plays a former beauty queen and current evil station manager, singing about how she won “Miss Baltimore Crabs”? Plus, the die-hard “Hairspray” fans will appreciate the way the movie has cameos by the original cast including Rikki Lake (the first Tracy ever), Marissa Jaret ( who originally played Tracy on Broadway), and even director John Waters himself.
“Hairspray” is probably going to make my top ten list of movies for 2007 for all of these reasons, but mainly for the joyful way it celebrates the differences of people and reminds us if we look for the best in others, there’s just no limit to what we can do.

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