Friday, July 20, 2007

From the Archive: "Hairspray" Film Review

Film Rating: B

Welcome to The Archive, a comprehensive collection of reviews dating back to 2007, originally written for The Denver Post’s YourHub.Com website and print edition!  In the archive, you’ll find hundreds of movie, DVD, Blu-Ray, and TV reviews, along with other special features.  You can access the complete Archive Collection by clicking here, and read about the archive project by clicking here. 

Continue reading after the jump to access my original review of “Hairspray.”

From the Jonathan R. Lack Review Archives:
Originally published July 20th, 2007

After a few trailers for the film “Hairspray” that made the movie look so bad that even the world’s most optimistic person wouldn’t be hopeful about it, and a few equally atrocious TV spots, I was not excited for the film.  I like musicals, but even that wasn’t enough to make me hopeful about this one.  John Travolta playing an obese house-wife?  Sounded disturbing.  No, I was not in the least excited for “Hairspray”.  Surprise of all surprises, the film actually works pretty darn well, and guess what?  John Travolta absolutely steals the show in one of the funniest roles of the year.

Before I get ahead of myself, let me give you the lowdown on the plot.  Tracy Turnblad, a “pleasantly plump” teenage girl who has a passion for two things: dancing, and the Corny Collins Show, an “American-Bandstand” type of show that showcases tons of dancing.  When one of the cast members has to drop out of the show, Tracy is determined to win a spot on the cast, and after a run in with one of the members of the show, Tracy is hired and becomes Baltimore’s new star.             

That’s the film’s basic premise, and to give any more away to those unfamiliar of the story would be to rob them of the fun of seeing how “Hairspray”’s plot progresses. But suffice to say, before the film is over there’s lots of dancing, singing, and shakin’ that’s bound to delight audiences. 

The film is driven by its star-studded cast.  As mentioned above, John Travolta takes on the role of Edna Turnblad, Tracy’s mother, (yes, that’s right; mother) and he absolutely steals the show.  The audience was laughing before he (she?) uttered a single line, and one he did utter a line, they laughed harder.  The root of Travolta’s hilarity in the role is the outrageous way he/she pronounces many words, intentionally over-accenting most of his/her dialogue.  When Edna finally gets a big musical number in the movie, you’ll be laughing and cheering, because Travolta can still sing and dance, and mixed with the humor of the role, it becomes a jolly good time.

But Travolta isn’t the only cast member that gives a good performance.  “Hairspray” is full of some of the most inspired casting of the year.  Christopher Walken portrays Tracy’s eccentric father, owner of a successful joke shop.  Michelle Pfeiffer, who has seemed to be MIA the past few years, is delightfully evil in the role of Velma VonTussle, the head of the station that shows the Corny Collins show, determined to get rid of anyone that’s different.  Queen Latifah, who I usually can’t stand, gives an inspired performance as “Motormouth Maybelle,” the host of Corny Collin’s once a month “Negro-Day” special.  Amanda Bynes is hilariously dumb in the role of Penny Pingleton, Tracy’s best friend.  I’ve seen Bynes in lots of TV shows and films in the past years, and I think she should take more roles like this, because it’s what she’s good at. 

The song and dance numbers are very inspired, and are a blast to watch.  The first half hour has lots of rather un-inspired choreography, but after the half hour mark, that seems to clear up, and the dancing becomes as interesting as the singing.  It’s lots of fun throughout, for people of all ages.  Anyone who’s a fan of the movie Grease should check this movie out; it’s in the same batch.  “Hairspray” is no masterpiece, but it is a fun summer musical that more than worth a watch.    

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