Directed by: Adam Shankman
Written by: Leslie Dixon; John Waters (1988 screenplay); Mark O’Donnell & Thomas Meehan (musical play)
Starring: John Travolta, Christopher Walken, Michelle Pfeiffer, James Marsden, Queen Latifah, Amanda Bynes, Allison Janney, Brittany Snow, Zac Efron, Elijah Kelley, Nikki Blonsky, Jerry Stiller
Though it does address some serious issues (discrimination in many forms, particularly racial), this is a movie that you don’t have to take so seriously; the style and tone are very tongue-in-cheek. The writing, though, sometimes goes a bit overboard and is just plain cheesy (and that ending is super contrived).
But I’m tempted to forgive all of Hairspray’s little flaws. This is definitely one of the most underrated films of the last decade: an irresistible, colorful parade of fun. The music is consistently good (which is, pretty much, basic for a musical film) and the eye-popping visuals are a joy to behold.
Adam Shankman, responsible for one of the worst movies of this year, Rock of Ages, directed and choreographed this 2007 adaptation of the stage musical, and does a commendable job on both counts.
Hairspray’s biggest strength is in its fantastic cast. When Michelle Pfeiffer is your weakest link, you know you have a talented group in front of you. The former Catwoman is just fine, but her timing is a bit off. She reacts to things a couple of seconds too late (weird, I know). Travolta, Blonsky, Walken, Bynes, Latifah, Efron and Janney are in top form but, for me, there were three big standouts.
First, Brittany Snow. Her mean Amber provided many of the film’s best moments; she’s on the screen far too little. Second, James Marsden. It was his work as the aptly named Corny Collins that made me see the immense talent this man has. He’s funny, charismatic and possesses a fantastic voice. I really hope he gets the Sinatra role in the upcoming biopic, as it’s been rumored.
And last (but certainly not least), Elijah Kelley. I’m shocked the movie roles and recording contracts didn’t come pouring in after his amazing turn as Seaweed J. Stubbs. He was in the much-maligned Red Tails but that is it. It’s unfair for someone so full of talent and who deserves to be a star. He’s a fine actor, a great dancer and a marvelous singer (the best in the film; sorry, Queen Latifah). I really hope his career takes off and (back to the Sinatra biopic) he snags the coveted role of Sammy Davis Jr. (reportedly, he and André 3000 are being considered).
If we’re wishing for stuff, I wish Shankman goes back to doing stuff like this instead of, you know, crap.