on 26 September 2007
It takes some guts to attempt remake a classic; but the original is nearly always the best. Hairspray is a prime example. John Walter's original version has a true depth and charm that will hold its own against any comedy. And thanks to the remake, the original is once again taking centre stage in people's hearts.
I think it's safe to say that Hairspray is a unique motion picture. The film, while providing nonstop fun and laughs throughout, also manages to not only confront but to roll right over prejudice in several of its nefarious guises. I was a teenager when this film came out, and sadly, it was the death of Divine (just before the movie was released) that made me aware of this film. I don't know if that publicity helped or hurt ticket sales – Divine, for those who have never heard of him, was famous for playing female roles, and Hairspray had begun to rejuvenate his whole career. As for the film, it's extremely campy in the best of ways, overflowing with great singing and dancing from the early 1960s, and it is the type of film that makes you feel good after you watch it.
Ricki Lake plays Tracy Turnblad, a big, bold, and beautiful teenager who dreams of dancing on the exceedingly popular Corny Collins dance show. Her mother, played by Divine, isn't too crazy about modern music and dancing – until Tracy auditions and gets a spot on the show. Strutting her stuff in front of the cameras, she quickly becomes Baltimore's newest sensation. This does not sit well with Amber von Tussle (Colleen Fitzpatrick), as Tracy steals her man and then threatens to win the coveted title of Miss Auto Show 1963. Tracy is overweight, but she likes herself just as she is and easily dismisses the fat jokes thrown her way early on. The big issue in this film, though, is segregation. Tracy and her best friend Penny Pingleton (Joann Havrilla) soon become friends with some of the black kids in town and begin working toward integrating the Corny Collins show. Collins is all for the idea himself, as currently the Negro show runs only once each month under the controls of sassy Motormouth Mabel (Ruth Brown). The station manager will not hear of integration, though, and Penny's mother is aghast to find out that her daughter is in love with an African-American. This is 1962, of course. The whole segregation issue becomes the basic foundation of the movie as it dances its way to the end, making Hairspray a wonderfully entertaining film with a serious message behind it.
The film is blessed with many interesting cast members. Divine plays not only Mrs. Turnblad but also the station manager, Jerry Stiller plays Mr. Turnblad, Sonny Bono and Debbie Harry (and Debbie Harry's increasingly interesting hair) come together to play Amber von Tussle's parents, and Ric Ocasek and Pia Zadora show up as Beatniks in a strange little cameo appearance. Of course, Ricki Lake pretty much steals the show as the big girl with big dreams, although I found Joann Havrilla's performance as Penny Pingleton quite captivating in a weird sort of way.
It is very difficult to describe Hairspray; you pretty much have to watch it to get a true feel for its entertainment assets and social commentary underpinnings. It does have its silly moments, but this is not entertainment for the sake of entertainment, nor is this a film you will soon forget after watching it.
on 24 May 2014
When I first saw this way way back on Channel 4 late at night I realised I was watching something that would change my outlook in many ways. This film has a great soundtrack and although it now looks dated it is still very watchable. Thanks to this film I started to enjoy films that were outside of the 'norm' and shy away from masculine adrenaline filled fluff in favour of more interesting titles.
Cant not mention the film without feeling glad it also inspired one of my favourite musical theatre shows ever and in turn the tongue in cheek , sickly sweet Disney-esque film adaptation that also has a special place in my heart.
All this came from a great film. Find it here and revel in the over the top exploration of an underdog story.
on 2 September 2015
I am not the kind of person who dances along a movie or TV programme at all, but this is the only exception I have done it with. I have seen this film a few tims when I was younger and I loved it. The later version is good, but not as good as this one. A must see, even if it is just for general education of "old" films.
on 10 August 2015
I don't know if there's a more modern version of this film but I found it rather odd. It reminded me of the first Little Shop of Horrors (it had the same quirky feel) I quite enjoyed it though, probably because I had had a couple of glasses of wine, on the whole it wasn't what I expected.