Musicals made into movies usually lose something. Nothing can replace the thrill of watching people sing and dance just for you, but luckily, "Hairspray" overcomes that loss. With a phenomenal cast of huge stars, the music of a Tony Award-winning Broadway show, and sets and costumes that immerse the viewer in the '60s, it's not surprising that the movie is so delightful.
The movie opens with hefty teen Tracy Turnblad (Nicole Blonksy), who dreams of being a dancer on the Corny Collins television show. She and her best friend Penny (Amanda Bynes) watch Collins (James Marsden) announce dates for auditions to become a regular on the show. Tracy pleads with her parents, Edna and Wilbur (John Travolta and Christopher Walken) to let her audition, but the producer of the station, Velma Von Tussle (Michelle Pfeiffer) kicks her out. However, "Hairspray" is, and has always been a fairy tale, so rest assured that not only will Tracy dance on the show, she will also be able to single-handedly integrate Baltimore!
While the main plot deals with Tracy, the subplots prove more important. Tracy encourages her mom to leave the house and welcomes her to the '60s. While it's initially strange to see everyone's favorite "Grease" star wearing a dress and a fat suit, Travolta definitely added flair to the role of Edna Turnblad. Tracy meets some black kids in detention who teach her some dance moves that get her noticed on the Corny Collins show.
Focus then shifts to the black dancers, headed by Motormouth Maybelle (Queen Latifah), who are being segregated on the Corny Collins show. Tracy, however, agrees with Seaweed J. Stubbs (Elijah Kelley) that "the darker the chocolate, the richer the taste." She then announces that every day should be "Negro Day," and their fight for integration begins.
The movie is comical and lighthearted the entire time. The music is incredible, although it's too bad that the movie leaves out the song "Mama, I'm a Big Girl Now." The acting and singing are good, for the most part. And the themes are just wonderful for anyone at any age. This movie (and the musical and original 1988 movie) are all about giving everyone a chance. The "short and stout" teenager gets to dance on the show and kiss the teenage heart-throb Link (Zac Efron), the black kids get on the show, and Penny ends up with Seaweed despite her mother's objections. Blonsky plays an enthusiastic Tracy (as she should, since she is the heroine of this fairy tale) and Amanda Bynes is adorable as her best friend.
While Travolta and Walken initially make an awkward pair, they win the audience over during "You're Timeless to Me." Queen Latifah is as remarkable as always in this role that was seemingly made for her, and the "new Travolta," Zac Efron, was the perfect choice for the role of Link Larkin. I can't imagine a better movie made from this musical. "I can hear the bells," and so will anyone who sees "Hairspray."
Natalie Berkman will be a freshman at Johns Hopkins University.
Review: Four stars (out of four)