A combustible mix of sassy humour and brassy showtunes makes Hairspray one of the hottest musicals to come along in years. After bland family comedies like Cheaper By The Dozen 2 and The Pacifier, director Adam Shankman is gifted with great source material in the form of John Waters' 1988 cult film, plus award-winning musical numbers from the Broadway production. And as chubby dance freak Tracy Turnblad, newcomer Nikki Blonsky simply bursts at the seams with charm.
Tracy is obsessed with The Corny Collins Show, a daytime dance-a-thon that has 60s Baltimore swinging. When the host (played like a refugee from a toothpaste ad by James Marsden) announces a vacancy in the troupe, Tracy hotfoots it to the audition. Sadly her bulbous figure is a turn-off for icy blonde station manager Velma (Michelle Pfeiffer), who also has a thing against the 'Negroes' threatening to sully her output with unseemly 'bump-and-grind'. Cue the dance-off!
"A JOYOUS CELEBRATION OF BEING DIFFERENT"
Not surprisingly given Hairspray's roots, the comedy cuts very close to the bone. But like Waters' original, the sly innuendos are balanced by a warm portrayal of people on the fringe. John Travolta is a scream as Tracy's balloon-bottomed mom, but his scenes with Blonsky are very poignant too. Their song-and-dance number at The Hefty Hideaway dress shop is one of the standout moments, not only for JT's dainty footwork in a fat suit, but because of their sparkling rapport. It also embodies the spirit of the film as a joyous celebration of being different. Later scenes depicting the Civil Rights movement may seem inappropriate, but the silliness only mirrors the absurdity of racism - ref. Queen Latifah's cringing endorsement of 'NapAway' hair cream. Spot-on performances all round contribute to a musical that, like Tracy, is just a great big ball of fun.
Hairspray is out in the UK on 20th July 2007.