This movie does three things wrong:
- It puts John Travolta in makeup that looks like a horrible blend of the “white chick” makeup from White Chicks and the Fat Bastard costume from Austin Powers. It’s like a constant parade of carnival sideshow train wreckage every time he’s on the screen.
- It makes Michelle Pfeiffer not look attractive. Stardust proves that Michelle Pfeiffer is not yet so old that she’s unattractive (Which, well, at this rate she’s never going to be that old), so I blame Hairspray.
- It equates disapproval of chubby people right on up there with bigotry and racism.
Too bad, because the rest of the movie is pretty high-spirited good fun. Well, the musical numbers aren’t ALL very solid. In fact, the dancing is flat-out boring except for when there are some cool people of color on the screen. Considering the movie’s anti-segregation plot and message (Which comes along only decades too late to be relevant – if you haven’t gotten on that particular train by now then I’m sorry, you’re fucked), I suppose it could purposefully be full of only-awesome black people and only-awful white people? It plays that “They’re missing something awesome if they keep this shit up” card perfectly. I also can’t give this movie too much shit along those lines, because it’s not news to anyone that when white people dance, they tend to look like they’ve literally never tried dancing before.
Oh, and I’m well aware of what this movie has to do with the actual issues of “today” – but, apparently, the best it can do there is stick John Travolta in horrifying drag and hit us over the head over and over again about how stupid Michelle Pfeiffer is by being stupid. I don’t feel like encouraging that particular treatment of sensitive subjects and very real issues. Hairspray doesn’t have the balls that its lead character has, and so it doesn’t bother trying to share some blunt truth like she fearlessly does.
I liked the lead character (Played by Nikki Blonsky) quite a bit. This is a Broadway adaptation that probably in no way surpasses the original musical – but it has Christopher Walken, so it’s not all mediocre.
In a fit of irony that I nearly forgot to mention, one of the major plot devices is that the protagonist’s school has a detention class that is always full of dancing black people and nobody else (Until she herself gets sent there). In fact, these are apparently the only black kids in the school, and they are apparently ALL there all the time. That seemed a bit unusually unfair no matter how you interpret the situation (Either the teachers are all steel-minded racists, or every African-American student there is somehow deserving of this treatment… all the time?? Yikes).