I'm not a big fan of movie musicals, but like the rest of the audience, I walked out of Hairspray this afternoon with a smile on my face. This is a remake of the John Waters movie of 1988, which starred the transvestite performer, Divine, as the mother of a pudgy young singer, Tracy Turnblad, played by Rikki Lake.
John Travolta, who at last report was a Scientologist but not a transvestite, does a hilarious job cross-dressing as the pudgy mother of the pudgy young singer, played this time by a young actress, Nikki Blonsky, whose resume consists of "many roles at Great Neck Senior High School."
It's a little ridiculous to even talk about a plot in a musical, one of the reasons I generally don't like musicals, but this little frivolity does have a social conscience, as Tracy helps advance race relations by breaking the color barrier at the local television station's teenage dance show, "The Corny Collins Show."
The deliciously evil Michelle Pfeiffer plays the villainous mother of the reigning queen of the dance show who doesn't like pudgy people and doesn't like black people. Obviously, there is no suspense -- good will triumph; the show will be integrated, talent, even if encased in pudge, wins out over looks.
Christopher Walken, is the good-hearted father of the young singer, a role played by Jerry Stiller in the 1988 movie, but who returns in this one as Mr. Pinky. Stiller probably beats out Walken for the prize of most weirdly-dressed in the movie, but only by a mismatched tie.
Number One Son and The Bride went with us to see the movie, which was surprisingly well attended, considering all the hype about the Harry Potter book and movie. (This multiplex, with 14 screens had seven devoted to Harry Potter, but reserved one of the biggest screens for Hairspray, which needs a big screen to be properly enjoyed.) Everyone should borrow NOS to go see a movie like this because his encyclopedic memory and obsession with detail adds insights ordinary people, like me, would have missed. He noticed, for example the cameo appearance of John Waters, the writer and director of the 1988 movie as a flasher, and of Rikki Lake, the original Tracy, as a talent scout, in this movie. Just having Travolta in the movie is, of course, a spoof of the movie that made him famous, Saturday Night Fever.
I haven't seen the 1988 version of Hairspray, but NOS thinks the music is better in this year's movie. It certainly is bouncy; the kind of music one might even want to listen to again.
NOS and The Wife gave the movie four stars in their rating system, which only goes to four stars. I gave it four stars on my five-star system, unable to give it my highest rating because it is still a musical. There are certainly worse ways to spend a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon.