Hairspray is the toe-tappiest, finger snappiest, butt wiggilyist experience the studios have offered up in years.
Indomitably spirited fat girl Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky) wants nothing more than to be a dancer on the local Corney Collins Show. When she learns of open auditions, she ignores the nay-sayers and throws her hat in the ring. Even a downright smack-down couldn’t kill her spirits and after some persistence and “Negro Day” influence, Nikki finds her place on the show. Little does she know that the station manager Velma Von Tussle (Michelle Pfeiffer) is an era appropriate racist and painful narcissist. The station manager’s daughter Amber (Brittany Snow) is a younger version of her mother in every way. Tracy’s progressive view on “afro-tastic” dancing, integration, and image pits her against the station manager and her daughter.
It is extremely difficult to make me laugh out loud during a movie. I’m a tough nut to crack. On top of my general lack of a funny bone, I was having a terrible day when I went to see Hairspray. Within five minutes, I was disarmed and suffering from a wicked case of Hairspray Stockholm Syndrome. I gave up any attempts at playing cool, abandoned my pride, and succumbed to the unrelenting laughter Hairspray demanded of me. The humor couldn’t be undone after Wilbur (Christopher Walken), Tracy’s father, says, “If we can’t put a smile on your face, your skin is too tight.” Even those trained to resist the pains of torture would break down and chuckle during Hairspray.
Nikki Blonsky is a star who must’ve been locked in the darkest box, in the most remote cellar, on the highest shelf until now. She is radiant, charming, uplifting, and adorable. Even if you aren’t fat, I’m sure you’ll be able to find something about her character that makes you feel like she is talking to you or about you. The reliability is part good-writing and part actress-who-knows-how-to-be-sweet-with-sincerity. In order to pull off a teenager unwilling to be put down because she is heavy, she had to be fearless about her own weight. Any insecurity would have killed the character. Nikki Blonsky is shame and fear-free as she dances and sings her heart out. She steals the spotlight from the more experienced actors every time she graces the screen.
One of the veteran actors who is constantly outshined by Blonsky is Christopher Walken. Surprising as it might sound, Walken does not play his typical role in Hairspray. Abandoned is the gruff smooth talker. Embraced is the awkward yet encouraging father and husband. This may be a departure for Walken, but it’s a fantastic one.
I was also extremely fond of Motormouth Maybelle played by the outstanding Queen Latifah. If there were such a thing as sassy-sauce, Queen Latifah would be the manufacturer. Even though she is down-right silly sometimes, she also has one of the most serious roles in the film. Her portrayal of an oppressed African American woman during this time of change is surprisingly controlled and heart touching. It is also nice that there is one professional singer in the bunch.
It isn’t often I leave a movie wanting to buy the soundtrack. The movie wasn’t half over before I wanted to rewind and listen to just the songs again. There are no offensive voices, daring for a choking. Even the worst singer, Walken, didn’t shame himself. Again, leave it to Nikki Blonsky to sing her siren song and draw you right into the Hairspray rocks!
A sweet musical twist on a tart subject makes a cinematic tongue tingler. To modify a quote from the movie a little: If you don’t laugh during Hairspray, your skin is on too tight!