Hairspray (the movie):a burst of feel good entertainment…
I’ve been meaning to post these couple of reviews ages ago, but I had to finish some assignments before I had some free time to dot down a couple of lines. The first one is about a movie I saw a couple of months ago called Hairspray. At last we have a new movie musical that really is a movie musical – a bold, unapologetic movie musical that nearly jumps off the screen and challenges all of your silly hang-ups about movie musicals.
In the days when Hollywood lost its way when it attempts to make film musicals for people who don't like film musicals. It is pointless because these audiences would draw back no matter how cautiously on-screen singing was presented. In the meantime, the studios alienated those fans who do like musicals.
With Hairspray, it found its way back and, for once, gets it right. The people who made this film instinctively know that the best way to introduce a song on screen is to jump right into it. And that's what "Hairspray" does; it immediately opens with the big production number, "Good Morning, Baltimore!" It wastes no time. No timid tiptoing here: It grabs you by the collar and dares you not to have fun
Obviously a big-budget, flashy musical remake is never going to be as revolutionary or as comically edgy as its predecessors, but one of the good things about HAIRSPRAY is that it never intends to be. It fully embraces the cheesy, over-the-top aspect of a movie musical from frame one, a feature that most other current films of its type try to avoid. In a welcome change from the summer chore of explosions and CGI, this film is a pure feel-good crowd pleaser where excitement and energy rise above all.
Everyone in the cast gives able performances; even Travolta who, in drag and a fat suit, seems at first off-putting, beginning a one-joke "hey I'm a man in a dress!" performance, quickly grows into his own as Edna does, becoming the most crowd-pleasing character by the film's end. It's a pleasure to see a former GREASE returning to what made him famous, but Travolta proves surprisingly agile in the comedy department, especially during his song and dance numbers.
The real enjoyment here, however, and the truly great performances are given by the younger members of the cast. Every single teenager in the film, from the leads to the chorus boy in the back of the room are injected with an unshakable, undeniable energy that reaches through the screen and captivates the viewer. This ring true especially for the film’s two major finds: newcomers Nikki Blonsky and Elijah Kelly. Both of them have that instant star quality, a charisma and charm that make them instantly likable. Kelly displays simply astounding singing and dancing skills, while Blonsky easily carries the entire film of her shoulders, becoming the heart and soul of the movie with one hip thrust.
The film bursts onto the screen with robust energy, youth, and vigor. With tongue firmly in cheek, it pokes fun at everyone. Keep an eye out, between the square-in-your-face humor, there are also plenty of quietly subtle ironic jokes sprinkled throughout. But it’s the high octane tunes and dancing that keep this little number rocking.
Actually, the first half simply doesn’t let up. This is A+ entertainment, snappy dialogue, quick cuts, and hopping music. Unfortunately though, the second half has a little trouble with its balance. But the music is still good and the hearty momentum barrels on.
As you may know, John Travolta plays a woman, the main character’s mother. This takes some getting used to and seemed almost entirely senseless until I put two and two together and figured that the Michelle Pfeiffer character was probably supposed to be Olivia Newton John. That would be quite slick and fit in nicely with the film's quirky humor and homage to musicals of the past, namely “Grease.” That’s my guess. Anyway, it’s odd with just John, but it sort of almost works.
That said, let me just praise Christopher Walken. He’s such a joy to watch -- especially in roles like this where he plays the caring parent. Overall, I enjoyed the film, great first half. All do a fine job of singing and dancing (save for Walken and Travolta -- but they‘re amusing anyway), Elijah Kelley stands out.
HAIRSPRAY has nothing much to offer besides two hours of entertainment and escapism, but it offers it in spades. It is a pure joy to watch from beginning to end and a welcome change of pace from the big-budget action film that surround its release. Yes, it's a musical and yes, it's over-the-top, but the audience is sold on that point from the first moment Tracy opens her mouth and the audience cannot help but be sucked in…rent it out and get singing and dancing…more to come...