(out of 5)
A teenager in the 1960s decides to fight racial segregation and is met with serious threats to her future; sounds like an update of Mississippi Burning until you add big hair, rocking tunes and John Travolta in a dress. Newcomer Nikki Blonsky plays the youngster in question, Tracy, in this wonderful musical adaptation of the 1988 John Waters film. She’s a music-obsessed teen who dreams of being on a locally broadcast dance show but is initially rejected because she weighs a few extra pounds and isn’t a bony blonde bitch like the station manager (Michelle Pfeiffer) or her teen queen daughter (Brittany Snow). When the show’s host (James Marsden) and lead dancer (Zac Efron) get a load of Tracy’s dance moves, however, she becomes the new favourite and is thrilled with her luck until she discovers that the black kids whose dancing style she loves so much are no longer welcome on the program. Tracy takes to the streets with her protests over institutionalized segregation, even involving her shy, plump mother (Travolta taking over for Divine) and, in turning the town on its ear, ushers in a new age of tolerance. While the plotting of the original film has been left more or less intact (it’s a Miss Hairspray contest now, not queen of the Auto Show), the film is really successful because of its wonderful song and dance numbers, which pump out one after the other without stopping. You’ll barely be able to keep yourself from dancing in the aisles with all the tunes, beautifully performed by Queen Latifah, shining as the host of ‘Negro Day’ on Marsden’s dance program, Pfeiffer as the ice-cold villainess you just love to hate, and a very adorable Travolta. As adorable as he is (and Christopher Walken is equally so as Tracy’s dad), the film really belongs to Blonsky, a newcomer who is stacked with star quality and is a pleasure to watch from beginning to end. The film rushes through its ending a little bit, and doesn’t quite tie its strands up to full satisfaction, but the whole thing is such a treat that there’s really no way you could protest too strongly. Look for John Waters and the original film’s star Ricki Lake in cameo appearances.
Directed by Adam Shankman
Cinematography by Bojan Bazelli
Music by Marc Shaiman
Production Design by David Gropman
Costume Design by Rita Ryack
Film Editing by Michael Tronick