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:: Hairspray

An adaptation of the popular Broadway play (which was an adaptation of the 1988 John Waters cult film), “Hairspray” stars newcomer Nikki Blonsky as Tracy Turnbland, a pleasantly plump high school student who lives in the segregated city of Baltimore with her shut in mother Edna (John Travolta) and novelty store owner father Wilbur (Christopher Walken).

When the popular teen music program “The Corny Collins Show” holds open auditions after one of its dancers takes a leave of absence, Tracy jumps at the chance and to everyone’s surprise lands the gig. This comes as a shock to network manager Velma Von Tussle (Michelle Pfeiffer) who feels that Tracy does not fit the programs criteria; namely white faces with thin bodies. Sick of the mistreatment given to her and to the black community - led by local radio DJ “Motormouth” Maybelle (Queen Latifah) - Tracy decides to fight back against the establishment and help usher in a new era of tolerance and understanding.

Adam Shankman – who pulled double duty as the film's director and choreographer- has created a vibrant, extravagant, extremely well structured and well paced movie filled with infectious musical numbers, big colourful sets and excellent costumes.

The cast is perfect. Nikki Blonsky is simply radiant in her big screen debut, belting out her songs with gusto. John Travolta returns to the musical genre with an inspired performance, pulling off the fat suit/cross dressing required for the role; Michelle Pfeiffer is spectacularly vicious in her first role in four years; Christopher Walken continues to impress showing off his vast musical talent; and Queen Latifah is all spunk and sass. Zac Efron, Amanda Byrnes, Elijah Kelly and James Marsden are also great, as is Alison Jenny in a hilarious minor performance.

The film speaks of letting go of old inhibitions and moving with the times, but does not come across as preachy. Of course, it is hard not to deny the film makers’ intentions in comparing the civil rights movement of the 1960’s (which is when the movie is based) to the homosexual rights of today. And I found it to be a tad hypocritical that a movie which lectures that people of all walks of life should be treated with tolerance and respect depicts its lone Christian figure as a fundamentalist zealot, prone to racial outbursts and corporal punishment of their children. Sure, such people do exist. But where us the counter example to combat that stereotype? But that aside, “Hairspray” was great, big, campy fun which had my feet tapping from beginning to end. If there is any justice, Nikki Blonsky should receive the same praise that Jennifer Hudson had for “Dreamgirls”.