DVD Release Date:  November 20, 2007
Theatrical Release Date: July 20, 2007
Rating: PG (for language, some suggestive content and momentary teen smoking)
Genre: Musical Comedy
Run Time: 107 min.
Director: Adam Shankman
Actors: John Travolta, Nikki Blonsky, Amanda Bynes, Christopher Walken, Zac Efron, Elijah Kelley, Queen Latifah, Michelle Pfeiffer, Brittany Snow, James Marsden, Allison Janney, Taylor Parks

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a musical comedy make it to the big screen that was worth the trouble of heading out to the local cinema-plex. Yet easily the year’s most entertaining film thus far, the bright and cheerful Hairspray, gives us a reason to like musicals again.

Based on a Broadway show that was based on the 1988 John Waters film, Hairspray launches immediately into the energetic song “Good Morning Baltimore” as we meet Baltimore native Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky). It’s 1962 and teen Tracy loves only one thing, dancing. She dreams of being a regular on The Corny Collins Show, a local version of American Bandstand and performing with the show’s Elvis-like teen heart throb, Link Larkin (Zac Efron). But unlike the show’s current flock of skinny blonde girls, Tracy is short and heavy.

When the show holds open auditions, Tracy skips school and is first in line with best friend Penny Pingleton (Amanda Bynes) in tow. But in spite of her dancing skill, she is rejected and humiliated by the cruel television station manager Velma Von Tussle (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her simpering Barbie-doll looking daughter Amber (Brittany Snow), currently the show’s lead dancer and Link’s girlfriend. Tracy, however, gets the last laugh as she catches the eye of show host Corny Collins (James Marsden) with some new dance moves she learned from black fellow-student Seaweed (Elijah Kelley) during a recent trip to detention. Tracy lands the gig on Corny’s show and becomes a local star. She garners additional ire from the Von Tussles with her open and on-air appreciation of the African-American kids who taught her the moves and appear on the station’s “Negro Day” broadcast. Not only is Tracy overweight, she’s a radical.

Fine performances by the film’s young stars are reminiscent of a time when Hollywood musicals reigned over the box office. Efron, Bynes, Kelley and newcomer Blonsky are all perfect in their respective roles, and tear up the screen with their singing and dancing prowess. The old guard actors are a lot of fun to watch as well, especially Pfeiffer who plays a villain you love to hate. The always watchable Christopher Walken is hilarious as Tracy’s goofball father Wilbur.  James Marsden, in a decidedly different part from his usual “superhero-movie-straight man,” nails the role of kitschy Dick Clark doppelganger, Corny Collins. But what is sure to cause the most stir is John Travolta’s turn as Tracy’s mom Edna. As part of the joke, the role of Edna in the earlier versions of the story on stage and screen has gone to a man. But rather than play the role as a gag, Travolta finds a sweet side to Edna, the overweight mom who doesn’t want her daughter hurt by the pretty people. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t. If you are familiar with the stage version you are probably looking for Travolta to be a little more comical than he is as Edna. But one thing’s for certain, Travolta still has those dance moves that made him famous early in his career, and now he can do them in a fat suit and high heels.