I can't recall another young newcomer grabbing onto a role with such gusto as Blonsky does here. Keisha Castle-Hughes' equally commanding performance in The Whale Rider comes to mind, but Blonsky goes up against a handful of veteran Hollywood stalwarts and knocks it out of the ballpark with a performance for the ages. Shankman and screenwriter Leslie Dixon combine Waters' original story of teen rebellion and racial integration with the high energy and musical fun of the Broadway play to create a new incarnation that will have you tapping your toes long after you've left the Cineplex.
After learning that the Corny Collins show will hold auditions for kids wanting to dance on the show, Tracy picks up some new dance moves from her black classmates led by Seaweed (Elijah Kelley) - and uses her newfound skills to attract the attention of Corny Collins (James Marsden) himself. Against the wishes of her 54EEE laundress mother, Edna (John Travolta in drag), Tracy joins the show and decides to use her rapidly rising popularity to incite change. Not only does she encourage her mother who hasn't been out the house in over a decade to lead a more glamorous lifestyle, she also steps forward in support of integrating the Corny Collins show. So far, the extent of the show's integration plans has been to run "Negro Day" programming once a month hosted by Motormouth Maybelle (Queen Latifah).
Hoping to foil Tracy's plans are the sharp-tongued Velma Von Tussle (Michelle Pfeiffer) the station manager and her daughter, Amber (Brittany Snow), the show's reigning Miss Teenage Hairspray. Velma ends up canceling "Negro Day" which leads to a protest that puts Tracy's short-lived popularity in jeopardy.
A big question going in was how the director of such claptrap as Cheaper by the Dozen 2 and The Pacifier would handle the high-energy choreography and clever comedy of this ambitious reinvention. But Shankman's roots as a dancer and stage choreographer come through in grand fashion with some scenes that'll surely go down in cinematic history right alongside many of the MGM movie musical classics. He gets nearly perfect performances from every actor, whether it's a song and dance number from Christopher Walken as Tracy's sympathetic father (who would have ever thought Walken could be so charming?), or surprising dance talents of Marsden, better known as Cyclops from the X-Men movies. One memorable sequence stands out with the acrobatic talents of Kelley as he leads a troupe of dancers to Run and Tell That. The four-minute sequence moves from the detention center at the high school, onto a school bus and ends at Motormouth's record shop. One song, three distinctly different scenes executed with flawless continuity. How can anyone deny that the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice?
Travolta's shtick in 50+ pounds of fat-suit latex initially seems like a cheap gimmick meant to go for tranny humor and juvenile laughs. But as the story plays out, and as Edna begins to regain her public confidence, the actor wins us over as he brings a quiet dignity to not only his Edna, but to all people of size. Travolta has a way of pronouncing some of his words that seems a bit tricked-up and silly at first, bit it becomes one of those things that you'll find yourself laughing at even though you can't explain why.
Hairspray is undeniably a great movie that features career performances from a diverse cast of newcomers and veterans. But there's no doubt the whole thing belongs to Blonsky. Her infectious smile and big voice do as much for the film as her physique will most assuredly do for raising the confidence of pleasantly plump young girls everywhere.
Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 2.35:1
Subtitles: English; Spanish; Closed Captioned
Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 5.1
Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; trailer; deleted scenes; director's commentary; making-of featurette; alternate ending.
o 1- with director Adam Shankman and actress Nikki Blonsky
o 2 - with producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron
o "Hairspray Extensions" (37:10)
o "Step by Step: The Dances of Hairspray" (12:43)
o "You Can't Stop the Beat: The Long Journey of Hairspray" (1:18:00)
* Documentary - The Roots of Hairspray
* Deleted Scenes - five scenes that didn't make the final cut for a total of nine minutes, 30 seconds of addityional footage with a "play all" feature.
* Trailers - Numerous sneak peeks at other films.
* DVD-Rom Component
Number of discs: - 2- Keepcase Packaging with a 2-disc flapper and printed cellophane sleeve.
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