Aug 27, 2007

[Movies] Hairspray (2007)

Hairspray (2007)As soon as the movie officially opened here in the Philippines, I was unbelievably excited about seeing Hairspray. Can you blame me? I'm such a campy musical-lover and this was one of my favorites based on the songs alone.

The movie marks a strange cycle for this particular story that started with the original 1988 movie starring Ricki Lake to the 2002 hit Broadway musical and now back on film again as largely inspired by the musical.

Musical movies seem to have limited success in recent years but still I celebrate every one of them that manage to make the transition to the silver screen.

As is always the case with these stage-to-film translations, it was inevitable that parts of the story would be changed to ensure things would fit within the confines of a movie and some songs were bound to be omitted. I dreaded this fact and half the time I was wondering what they had removed in this translation. Some of you may consider the next paragraph to include spoilers but I'm really talking to fans of the Broadway show who are watching the film. Those who want to avoid this may skip over this next bit.

My partner Brian and I mostly lamented the loss of "Mama, I'm a Big Girl Now," one of our favorite songs and personally I wished that they had performed the original vocals for "Cooties," but at least they were turned into instrumental cameos here and there. The biggest change was Tracy not actually going to jail, thus modifications were made to the song "Without Love" and of course they had to drop "The Big Dollhouse" which was solely set in Jail. Oh, and expect a much larger number of Corny Collins council members, haha.

However those changes were minor and done to ensure the story made sense in this translation to the screen and I felt that for the most part they were very faithful to the previous film and the Broadway show. The real strength of the movie lies in the players themselves who did a tremendous job in their respective roles thus effectively bringing to life this amazing musical.

First, my kudos definitely has to go to Nikki Blonsky who made her movie debut as the lead role of Tracy Turnbald. She was just cute as cute can be from the very beginning of the movie and gave Tracy new life in her characterization. Better still, she possesses an amazing singing voice and performed the songs very smoothly, perhaps moreso than the Broadway original, in my opinion. She gave the movie a unique sound somewhat distinct from the original musical but still faithful and paying due respects to that production.

John Travolta and Christopher Walken were great as Edna and Wilbur Turnbald, Tracy's parents although I'm sure not everyone will be comfy with Travolta in drag. However, Hairspray has always had a male drag performer play the role of Edna ever since the original 1988 film with Divine and with the Broadway production with Harvey Fierstein, so you have to understand that this is already tradition, haha. Walken was a great choice despite his fame for being the scary psychopath villain in many films given he really is classically schooled in dance as evident in his performance in this movie.

Amanda Bynes did a stellar job as Tracy's best friend Penny and is definitely making strides as an actress. She clearly has developed her own style and approach to comedy and integrates it well with the film without being overly hammy.

Of course we can't forget our eye candy, Zac Efron and James Marsden who played Link and Corny Collins respectively. Zac was pretty hot as the Elvis-inspired teen hearthrob and really should be panned from winking and dancing / thrusting in tight slim pants before he gives girls and queers alike heart attacks. Marsden did an amazing job as the seemingly one-sided TV show host with a killer smile that feels so sixties that it'll blind you. Who would have thought he could dance like that?

And major, major kudos goes to the trio of Nadine Ellis, Tanee McCall and Arika Rice (with singing voices provided by Shayna Steele, Kamilah Marshall, and Terita R. Redd) collectively packaged as "The Dynamites" in the movie who had their performances interwoven into various parts of the movie such as our first look at "Negro Day" and in various posters brought to life as a form of artistic license. They were such an amazing addition to the film that it's a shame that they were not both amazing singers and dancers at the same time.

My only disappointment (apart from the song omissions) were the performances of Queen Latifah and Elijah Kelley as Motormouth Maybelle and Seaweed respectively. Latifah is capable of much more than what she pulled off in this film and I was expecting more vocal power from her. Kelley was just ho-hum for me and didn't really strike me as strong as a character as he should of been.

Overall, I LOVED the movie and I know that this may be influenced by my natural inclination towards show tunes and overall campiness. While this may not be as great for everyone else in general, it's still an enjoyable movie that you can watch with your family (depending on beliefs, haha) for an entertaining time with great music.

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