To begin with, the print I saw looked like it had been photographed through a shit-filter, then left out in the sun two or three days to desaturate. Maybe all film musicals don’t have to be brightly colored, but the invitation to step into a bright Technicolor fantasy world is a long-established musical convention which, in the case of this Hairspray, I sorely missed.
Shankman’s direction and choreography were competent, but little more. The Broadway-derived score was instantly forgettable. Aside from its feelgood storyline (recycled from Waters), the film’s one redeeming feature was its performances. John Travolta (pictured with Queen Latifah, above) has a terrific time singing and dancing the role of an overweight woman, and his enthusiasm is contagious. Michelle Pfeiffer, sinking her teeth into the part of the story’s racist villainous, is a consistent radiant pleasure. Christopher Walken, as Travolta’s husband, and James Marsden, as dance-show host “Corny Collins,” were standouts. The younger performers, particularly Nikki Blonsky as Tracy Turnblad, were fine as well. The audience I saw it with, consisting mainly of 12 to 14-year-old girls, laughed and cheered throughout.
* * *
“It would require a separate essay to break down every beat of this episode’s climax, which I will hyperbolically state to be the greatest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”
While I wouldn’t go that far, I, too, was impressed. Without giving away too much in the way of *spoilers,* let’s just say that in the episode’s final 15 to 20 minutes, time and space are transcended to reveal the spiritual interconnectedness between the characters – and by extension, all of us – that is the show’s underlying theme. Great television, indeed!