© Warner Bros. Pictures Germany

U.S.A. 2007

Opening 6 Sep 2007

Directed by: Adam Shankman
Writing credits: Leslie Dixon, John Waters, Mark O'Donnell
Principal actors: John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Amanda Bynes, James Marsden

This third version of Hairspray is a successful fusion of the original 1988 John Waters film and the 2002 Broadway musical. The first notes of “Good Morning Baltimore” will send you to the aisles of the cinema to dance the mashed potato. From there, the energy-laden pace continues to the finale “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” with 23 songs in between, all originally sung by the cast.

Once again Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky) and her friend Penny Pingleton (Amanda Bynes) dream of participating in the Corny Collins TV Show, where sky-high hair-dos and dance techniques predominate. Tracy refuses to face reality both personally (she is much too chubby to cut a figure on the dance floor) and politically (an integrated, black and white dance group is utopia). The moral of the story is: discrimination is passé and, of course, Tracy wins out in the end. But first she must lead Motormouth Maybelle (Queen Latifah) and her children Seaweed (Elijah Kelley) and Little Inez (Taylor Parks) on a march to stop segregation at the TV station; convince her couch potato mother Edna (John Travolta) that there is life outside the home; steal away Amber von Tussle’s (Brittany Snow) boyfriend Link (Zac Efron) and be crowned Miss Teenage Hairspray by Corny Collins (James Marsden).

Older established actors must hustle to keep up with this new generation of spectacular talent. Travolta has a hard act to follow Divine and Harvey Fierstein who played Edna in the original and the musical respectively, but he succeeds. Christopher Walken plays Tracy’s father Wilbur, and Jerry Stiller (who was Wilbur in the original) makes a comeback as Mr. Pinky of Hefty Hideaway. Michelle Pfeiffer, with her anorexic figure, blond wig, and startling jewellery, is fantastic as Amber’s mother, the studio executive from hell. Nikki Blonsky is no longer a nobody from Long Island as she is a smash hit whom people are comparing to Bette Midler. In fact there are no weak actors, and Adam Shankman is an excellent choice of director with his background as dancer and choreographer. Marc Shaiman and Scott Whittman wrote all the songs as well as some new compositions not in the Broadway show. Although filmed in Toronto, each scene is authentically Baltimore. Anyone who loves musicals will love this one. It’s also interesting to check out the old version on DVD, and guess what: the musical opens in London in October, so here’s your chance if you are unable to fly over to New York City. (Becky Tan)

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