Hairspray (2007)

Starring: John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Queen Latifah, Nikki Blonsky, Amanda Bynes, Zac Efron, Elijah Kelley, James Marsden

Directed by: Adam Shankman

Rating: 1 2 3 4 5

John Travolta and Nikki Blonsky in Hairspray

I must admit, I had my reservations about going to see this remake of John Waters' classic kooky musical comedy. Back in the late '80s, like any self-respecting misfit, I loved this chaotic, anti-establishment tale of a fat teenager who fights prejudice and racism with some smooth dance moves and enormous hair. Now in my mid-thirties (oh lordy), would a slick noughties remake really cut the mustard?

Well, first of all, this isn't so much a remake of Waters' movie as a screen version of the stage musical. And from the minute sweet chunky teen Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky) springs out of bed and bursts into a rousing chorus of 'Good Morning Baltimore', skipping merrily through the streets, and passing none other than John Waters himself (playing a flasher – what else?) I fall for the quirky charms of this new version.

Zac Efron and Nikki Blonsky in Hairspray

The year is 1962, and while the rest of the world is starting to wake up and smell the revolution, back in Baltimore, things are still stuck strictly in the '50s, with beehive hairdos and multiple petticoats the order of the day. So when chubby Tracy achieves her life's ambition of dancing on the Corny Collins Show and becomes an overnight sensation, she incurs the wrath of icy, rail-thin station manager Velma von Tussle (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her blonde, ambitious daughter, Amber (Amanda Bynes). Worse still, Tracy is in favour of the integration of black and white dancers on TV, and finds herself in trouble when she takes part in a protest at the station. Separated from the love of her life, the crooner and dancer Link (Zac Efron), and on the run from the police, can Tracy storm the studio in time to win Miss Hairspray 1962, or are there further surprises in store?

Watch either movie to find out and, trust me, you won't be disappointed.

True enough, the remake lacks the anarchic edginess of the original (and my favourite scene, in which two black-clad beatniks, played by Rick Ocasek and Pia Zadora encourage Tracy to hit back at the Man by ironing her hair). More polished, coherent and sentimental, it's definitely closer to High School Musical than Pink Flamingos. But, packed with catchy, toe-tapping numbers, there's an infectious joyfulness about the film that really does make you want to get out of your seat and dance.

So, warm and witty songs that will stay with you for weeks; spot-on styling, and brilliant blink-and-you-miss-'em visual jokes (like the smoggy staffroom full of chainsmoking teachers or the pregnant women swigging down Martinis): what's not to like about this film? And then there are the performances, which are simply superb, first-time director and choreographer Adam Shankman wringing some great turns from his stellar cast.

John Travolta is pretty in pink as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray

John Travolta takes a bit of getting used to as Tracy's mother, Edna (but then again it can't be easy stepping into the size tens of cult drag icon Divine) and once he gets into his stride (or should that be his mambo shuffle?) he's superb. Paired with Christopher Walken, in non-scary goofy mode as Tracy's dad, Wilbur, the two make the perfect couple: 'The One That I Want' meets 'Weapon of Choice'. Up against such heavyweight superstars, it's a wonder newcomer Nikki Blonsky manages to make an impression at all, but this sweet and sassy deadringer for Ricki Lake has charisma by the bucketload, and could charm even the most recalcitrant John Waters fan into loving this movie.

Like a fat girl jumping into the deep end, Hairspray blows those skinny Dreamgirls out of the water, and sweeps the cast of High School Musical off the stage. The best feelgood movie of the year by a country mile, it's an absolute must for anyone who likes their musicals big and brassy and sassy and cool.

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