Hairspray (PG)

Comedy 117 July 20, 2007
By Scott Foundas
Director-choreographer Adam Shankman's screen adaptation of the smash Broadway musical based on John Waters' 1987 “crossover” movie is a faithful record of the stage version, but that’s all it is -- a recording. The story remains the same: In the early 1960s, a plus-sized Baltimore teen named Tracy Turnblad (here played by perky newcomer Nikki Blonsky) becomes an unlikely instigator of integration on an American Bandstand-like TV show. The songs -- clever, up-tempo numbers styled by composer-lyricist Marc Shaiman and co-lyricist Scott Wittman after the Top 40 hits of the era -- are among the best of recent Broadway vintage. But Shankman hasn't reshaped the material in cinematic terms, and the result is a largely lifeless endeavor, lacking both the rambunctious energy of a live performance and the expressionistic pull of the great movie musicals. The stunt casting of John Travolta as Tracy’s plus-plus-sized mom, Edna, seemed a sound idea, but the dandyish star is oddly restrained in a part that calls for the grandiose. The only real flashes of inspiration here exist on the periphery, especially in James Marsden's performance as the movie's Dick Clark surrogate: Sporting enough Brylcreem to deflect most forms of nuclear radiation and flashing a Pepsodent smile that could guide ships to shore in a raging monsoon, it's Marsden who seems the epitome of the virginal 1950s innocence to which Hairspray is, ultimately, a cockeyed adieu.
Adam Shankman John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Amanda Bynes, James Marsden, Queen Latifah, Allison Janney, Brittany Snow, Zac Efron, Elijah Kelley John Waters, Thomas Meehan, Mark O'Donnell Neil Meron, Craig Zadan New Line Cinema

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