On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Hairspray is a bouncy, campy 9, a cotton-candy entertainment feast.
Its been almost two decades since John Waters original oddball comedy about dance-crazed teenagers inspired Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittmans Broadway musical which has now been adapted for the screen in a star-studded spectacle.
Set in Baltimore in the early 1960s, its the story of how pudgy, shimmying Tracy Turnblad (18 year-old newcomer Nikki Blonsky), stuns her overly protective, laundress mom Edna (John Travolta), and joke-store proprietor dad, Wilbur (Christopher Walken), wins a spot on an afternoon TV dance party, steals the heart of Link Larkin (Zac Efron) and becomes an unlikely force for racial integration, much to the chagrin of scheming, bitter Velma Von Tussle (Michelle Pfeiffer), an ex-beauty queen who now runs The Corny Collins Show, a local version of American Bandstand.
Screenwriter Leslie Dixon (Mrs. Doubtfire) and choreographer-turned-director Adam Shankman (Bringing Down the House) gently bury much of John Waters subversive undertones to concentrate on being different in this merrily trashy musical.
Stepping into the gender-blending role originated by Divine and then Harvey Fierstein on Broadway, John Travolta dons on his Saturday Night Fever/Grease dancing shoes and dazzles. A nimble duet between Travolta and Walken, amid billowing clothes lines, evokes Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, but the most memorable musical numbers are Queen Latifahs I Know Where Ive Been and Elijah Kelleys Run.
Keep an eye out for cameos by alums of the original 1988 Hairspray: Ricki Lake, Jerry Stiller and auteur John Waters as the neighborhood flasher who lives next door to the Turnblads. Despite its PG rating, this is the first film to be cited for a teen smoking scene under the movie ratings boards new anti-smoking policy.