Thursday, November 15, 2007

Hairspray DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Watered-Down Musical Version of Cult Classic Comes to DVD

When first released in 1988, Hairspray was a socially-conscious satire which delivered a fairly potent political message about the evil of ethnic intolerance. Set against the backdrop of a strictly-segregated Baltimore back in the Sixties, the campy cult classic followed the efforts of some idealistic teenagers to integrate a popular TV dance show.
That edgy original was directed by John Waters, an inveterate iconoclast who has never been afraid to tackle any controversial issue head-on, or in a manner which might cause his audience to squirm in their seats. In 2002, the film was overhauled and revived on Broadway where it won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
Now, Adam Shankman has adapted that play back to the big screen as a bubbly but emotionally-eviscerated production which bears only a superficial resemblance to its source material. The remake stars Nikki Blonsky as Tracy Turnblad, a light on her feet, plus-sized teen who has been dreaming of a chance to strut her stuff on The Corny Collins Show with cast regular Link (Zac Efron), a classmate she has a huge crush on. John Travolta (in drag) and Christopher Walken play her working-class parents, Edna and Wilbur, while Amanda Bynes appears as her best friend Penny Pingleton, and Brittany Snow as Link’s girlfriend, Amber von Tussle.
The plot thickens after Tracy’s disastrous audition during which she is rejected not for her dancing but because she says she’d have no problem swimming in a pool with black people. To add insult to injury, she ends up in trouble when she returns to school, because she had to cut class for the tryout.
Detention turns out to be a blessing in disguise, as it’s filled with cool African-American kids who share Tracy’s taste in music. So, she and Penny cross the color line, befriending Seaweed (Elijah Kelly) and his sister, Little Inez (Taylor Parks).
Everything comes to a head when the TV station’s manager (Michelle Pfeiffer) cancels the once a month “Negro Day” dance program hosted by Motormouth Maybelle (Queen Latifah). Of course, Tracy comes to the rescue by leading a conscious-raising march demanding integration at WYZT.
This vapid edition of Hairspray is a safe, self-congratulatory fantasy which revisits the civil rights era not for a valuable history lesson but for an escapist, syrupy sweet, sing-a-long trip down memory lane to an unrecognizable, Hollywood utopia that never existed.

Fair (1 star)
Rated PG for teen smoking, mild epithets and suggestive content.
Running time: 107 minutes
Studio: New Line Home Entertainment
2-Disc DVD Extras: Audio commentary by the director, deleted scenes, an all new musical number, a documentary, a theatrical trailer, plus several featurettes.

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