Combustible Celluloid
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With: John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Amanda Bynes, James Marsden, Queen Latifah, Brittany Snow, Zac Efron, Elijah Kelley, Allison Janney, Nikki Blonsky, Taylor Parks, Jayne Eastwood, Paul Dooley, Jerry Stiller, John Waters
Written by: Leslie Dixon, based on the play by Mark O'Donnell, Thomas Meehan, and on the screenplay by John Waters
Directed by: Adam Shankman
MPAA Rating: PG for language, some suggestive content and momentary teen smoking
Running Time: 117
Date: 07/13/2007

Hairspray (2007)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

That Thing You Hairdo

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This movie, an adaptation of a Broadway show, which itself was an adaptation of a movie, should have been a disaster along the lines of The Producers (2005). But some magical balance between the cast members, the set design, the songs and director Adam Shankman makes it work. The exuberant Nikki Blonsky stars as the plump teenager Traci Turnblad, living in Baltimore of the early 1960s. She's obsessed with the afternoon TV dance program, "The Corny Collins Show," and herself dreams of dancing. Her mother (John Travolta in drag and with extra padding) is a shut-in who hopes that her daughter doesn't get her hopes crushed, and her father (Christopher Walken) runs a joke shop. The evil Velma von Tussle (Michelle Pfeiffer) runs the TV show and wants to keep it all white, even though integration is pounding at the door. There are at least a dozen characters with storylines, and most of them work; I especially loved Travolta's ridiculous performance, reading his lines with a strange accent. (He has the toughest shoes to fill, taking over Divine's role from the original 1988 movie.) Even better, Travolta has a love song with Walken, and it's hard not to think of their previous dances, Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, Grease and Pulp Fiction and Walken in Spike Jonze's music video for Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice." James Marsden is another standout as the self-loving Corny Collins, who hopes to integrate his show. However the entire film is haunted by the shadow of John Waters' original. The new film seems entirely too self-conscious and self-satisfied about addressing issues like obesity and segregation, while Waters presented the same material through his own singular, snide cinematic personality, happily ridiculing anyone who deserves it. (And Waters' film was 30 minutes shorter.) Waters appears in the film's opening number as a flasher. Jerry Stiller appears in both films.

DVD Details: New Line released several DVD versions, including a two-disc "Shake & Shimmy" edition. It includes a lyric track, dance instructions, deleted scenes, commentary tracks, several featurettes and other stuff.

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