Hairdo detention, integration angst, TV dancing competitions
Matthew G. Sherwin | last seen screaming at Amazon customer service | 06/13/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Hairspray is one of John Waters' more mainstream movies in that it deals with the themes of racial tensions leading up to an integrated Baltimore, teen angst and first true loves, and those incredible dances and dance shows on TV from the late 1950s into the 1960s. Of course, with Hairspray being a John Waters movie, characters become grossly exaggerated for a humorous effect; you get a very funny, playful and harmless cast of both young and older people in Baltimore facing changing times as they try to live their lives as best they can.
Tracy Turnblad (Ricki Lake) is an overweight teenage girl who can shake off jokes about her weight with a type of self-confidence that is truly remarkable. Tracy and her friend Penny Pingleton (Joann Havrilla) enjoy watching and dancing along to The Corny Collins TV Show in Tracy's living room at home; and one day Tracy sets her mind to trying out for the show with some support from her friend Penny. When Tracy does try out on the Corny Collins TV dance show for dancing teenagers, she wins a spot on the council almost immediately! This upsets the stuck up, racist reigning queen Amber von Tussle and her parents (Sonny Bono and Debbie Harry) who make their living running Tilted Acres, a segregated theme park in Baltimore. As Tracy's star rises she also charms the heart of Amber's boyfriend, Link Larkin (Michael St. Gerard). Of course, this means war. Amber and her parents must--I mean, must--find a way to disgrace Tracy so that Amber can remain the star of the show and ultimately win the highly coveted 1963 Miss Auto Show award. Of course, as this all happens, Hairspray pokes fun at the obsession some people had with getting their hair to be as high and as perfect looking as they thought it could or should be.
The movie moves along at an even pace and the action keeps your attention. Look for John Waters himself as the psychiatrist hired by Penny's parents when they find out she has a black boyfriend named Seaweed. Divine turns in quite a performance as both Tracy Turnblad's mother and Arvin Hodgepile, the TV studio owner who could can The Corny Collins Show if it becomes integrated against his will. As if that weren't enough, Ruth Brown plays the role of Motormouth Maybelle, a female record store owner who is a prominent integrationist in Baltimore and who also sometimes judges on The Corny Collins Show.
Overall, the acting exceeds my expectations for a John Waters flick; and the choreography shines in great scenes where large crowds must move about. I won't give away the plot; but if you want to see excellent choreography look not at just the complicated dance scenes they had to manage but also the race riot scene near the Tilted Acres segregated amusement park.
The cinematography works well; and each character is developed nicely as the movie goes along. The casting is flawless, too.
Hairspray earns its keep quite well; it will hold your undivided attention as you howl with laughter all the way through! The DVD also features commentary by John Waters and Ricki Lake.
When it comes down to it, Hairspray manages to do be funny, hold your attention and explore rather serious issues concerning racial tensions, segregation, integration and the first true love each teen inevitably experiences--all at the same time and all in the same movie. That's quite a feat; and I recommend this film for fans of John Waters movies but also for people who enjoy comedies that involve social commentary. Great!
Get Back to your roots!!!
Mark Twain | 08/18/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After seeing Hairspray: The Muscical at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles, I was tempted to watch the original feature film again, not having seen it for a few years. It is as good as I remember it, maybe even better.
Hairspray is a light entry for John Waters, the king of "Shock Cinema." After totally out there films like Polyester and Pink Flamingos, Waters made his first PG Hollywood film, which quickly had a cult classic on his hands.
The film made Ricki Lake a star, when she played Traci Turnblad, a 'pleasantly plump' teenager who teaches 1962 Baltimore a thing or two about integration after landing a spot on a local TV dance show.
Hairspray is a clever and witty satire of 60's life. It's supposed to be tacky and pro-America. It does have some deeper moments and some points to make about discrimination. But essentially it's a warm hearted, campy, funny flick. You only have to see who the director is to know that you aren't going to get another run-of-the-mill Hollywood story of overcoming adversity. It's a trashy take on pop culture of the 60's and the performances are great.
The film oozes John Waters even though it is very toned down compared to his earlier films. I love the storyline because it has to do with very realistic themes that were happening in those times. It's sad to know that this was Divine's last movie, but at least he went all out in it.
Obviously, the film must have some charm to have a stage musical made out of it. I did like the musical better, because the songs are just terrific, and I think this should be remade as feature film version of the stage musical. It would be a terrific companion to this, especially since many fans won't have the chance to see the spectacular musical on stage.
The terrific cast also includes Sony Bono, Ruth Brown, Deborah Harry, Vitamin C (Colleen Fitzpatrick), Jerry Stiller (Ben's dad), Leslie Ann Powers, Mink Stole, Ric Ocasek, and Pia Zadora, who all seem to be having fun with their roles. This is a great film that provides a rolicking good time for its audience. Fans of the stage show should definitely see where it all began."
M. Waters | Maryland | 06/06/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Hairspray" is a hilarious musical by one of the funniest directors of our time, John Waters! "Hairspray" revolves around the lives of Baltimore teenagers in the 1960s and how they deal with relationships, race relations, status, and the Corny Collins Show! The Corny Collins Show is a ficticious American Bandstand. All of the cool kids are dancers on the show. Ricki Lake's character, Tracy, has big dreams about being on the show. After an audition, she is given a coveted spot as one of the dancers. This begins a rivalry between her and a snobby young lady (played by Vitamin C).Ricki Lake and Divine give excellent performances as mother and daughter. There are also great performances by Sonny Bono, Debbie Harry, and Jerry Stiller. The music and dance sequences will definitely have you tapping your feet. Even through all of the fun and hilarity, there is also an important message you can learn from.I would highly recommend this film to people who would like to see a good, well-acted, and very funny film!!! You won't be disappointed!"