Friday, February 15, 2008


I did see Hairspray when it came out, with a couple of friends, and we all enjoyed it. Colorful, bouncy, upbeat, lots of fantastic dancing. I Netflixed it and found myself mentally cutting bits here and there, shortening numbers, making it a little darker here and there. Like most reviewers, I would certainly have cut down the numbers featuring the adults, because the kids are so sharp and energetic. Christopher Walken and John Travolta do a cute duet together, but there are two fantasy sequences spliced in, one tango-ish and one tux and evening dress. I would have cut the tango and severely shortened the Astaire. I would also have cut the fantasy sequence from Michelle Pfeiffer's first number, which does nothing but show off her legs. Incidentally, Pfeiffer is quite good, but for me probably the weakest of the whole cast -- which is not a harsh thing to say, as they're all so good.

Second time around, I also don't know how I feel about John Travolta playing the mom. The character is traditionally a drag character, but on film, as Travolta astutely noted, you have to play it more straight or it's just ridiculous. In that case, what's really the point of having a man at all? Just to gawk at Travolta playing a woman? It becomes a distracting novelty focused on star power instead of a wink-wink campy Harvey Fierstein.

A very enjoyable musical, with plenty to think about between its theme of racial integration/ tolerance for all body types, and its send-up of the sixties. A special shout-out to James Marsden, who is just so super-committed to his character, the aptly named Corny Collins. In one group number, there's a throwaway shot of him with his arms out like an airplane, grooving to the music, and it's lol funny.

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