Ain’t that a kick in the head?
First he was summer lovin’ in Grease, now unable to stop the beat in Hairspray; John Travolta must have a thing for the perfect cut and style. Vidal Sassoon, give this man a contract! Working from the stage musical by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan which was based on John Waters’ cult 80’s film, screenwriter Leslie Dixon melded together the vibrancy, humor and spunk with a terrific adaptation for director Adam Shankman. Shankman, most known for directing comedy hits such as Bringing Down the House, The Pacifier and The Wedding Planner is a veteran choreographer and dance consultant for a wide variety of creative outings and his talents are put to great use with a film that, admittedly when first announced sounded like a gimmicky nightmare but ended up being one of the nicest surprises of 2007. Of course, most of the press surrounding the film centered on John Travolta’s decision to don drag for his role as Edna Turnblad which, according to IMDb caused the star more than four hours of fat suit and makeup preparation each day but he’s great in the role in a refreshingly understated bit of cross-dressing that goes against the old Hollywood adage by calling very little attention to it at all and soon into the film, we forget that Mr. Saturday Night Fever has become a Mrs. The real joy of the film is tiny Nikki Blonsky who has enough energy to rival a case of Red Bull as Tracy Turnblad, the lovely, overweight teen obsessed with dancing on The Corny Collins Show alongside her crush of the moment, the show’s handsome star Link Larkin (Zac Efron). When one of the dancers of the 1960’s Baltimore hit must take an “ahem” nine month leave of absence, Tracy and her best friend Penny (the adorable Amanda Bynes) sneak over to the set where Tracy wows host James Marsden and finds herself an arch rival in perky, blonde princess Amber von Tussle (American Dreams’ Brittany Snow) and Amber’s diva-licious stage mother Velma, played by Michelle Pfieffer as a sultry siren a la her character in The Fabulous Baker Boys. Along the way, the sunny movie that’s filled with a palette as bright and colorful as the suckers Penny incessantly devours throughout the film, doesn’t forget its roots in the 60’s by providing a great storyline that focuses on TV’s ignorant and fearful separation of the races by segregating dancers on American Bandstand like Corny Collins’s Show until Tracy befriends Motormouth Maybelle (Queen Latifah) and younger dancers Elijah Kelley and Taylor Parks that cause her to act. A delightful musical with an infectious soundtrack—sadly one that was overlooked in the summer but now with its release on DVD will hopefully attract more fans in the holiday season.