JT Film Review

96 – Hairspray (2007)

Hairspray REVIEW

4.5/5 stars

Director – Adam Shankman

Cast – Nikki Blonsky, John Travolta, Christopher Walken, Zac Efron, Brittany Snow, James Marsden, Amanda Bynes, Queen Latifah, Elijah Kelly, Jerry Stiller


Hairspray, an adaptation of a Broadway musical which was itself an adaptation of a John Waters picture, may not seem very promising. We certainly have seen adaptations and remakes thrive recently, certainly commercially but usually less so when it comes to the critics. Well, we know which one trumps which usually…

Hairspray however, is one of the better remakes/adaptations, and some say one of the best films of the year of its release (2007). Personally I will go as far as to say that it is among the best musicals of the decade. A small category to be sure, but I stand by it.

The strength of Hairspray is two-fold. First off is the boundless energy and optimistic spirit of the whole thing. The movie tackles race issues, yet never feels preachy or sad. The movie is set in the 60’s and even though it lampoons (to a degree) the social values and wholesome attitudes of the time, in some ways the movie revels in them. The kids are all squeaky clean, and everything can be fixed if we all work together and be happy. This could easily have been overbearing, but I found this attitude refreshing and impossible to resist.

The second greatest strength of this movie is its cast. The star, newcomer Niki Blonsky, has to be the happiest looking kid I’ve ever seen on-screen. Zac Efron and James Marsden (as a couple of the stars of local variety TV show “The Corny Collins Show”) are lively and energetic, Christopher Walken as Niki’s father is perhaps a bit dry, but he carries it off, John Travolta in drag as Walken’s wife is perfect, and a cameo by Jerry Stiller as the owner of a local clothing store is a welcome dash of colour. The greatest performance in the film I think is Michelle Pfieffer. She plays the villainous, racist, and self-important producer of the “Corny Collins Show”. She sings well, she dances in a slinky, smarmy sort of way, and we love to hate her every moment she is on-screen. What more can we ask?

The movie is perhaps a bit long, about 15 minutes or so.  A little subplot with Pfieffer’s character attempting to seduce Walken’s character was added by the director just for this film, and I think that could have been comfortably left out. It does however lead to a delightful almost campy little duet between Walken and Travolta, which is one of the movie’s best moments, so we must forgive it. The ending is a bit pat perhaps, but with this type of film anything else would have felt out-of-place. We knew all along that it would end happily, and we’d have it no other way.


Hairspray trips along nicely despite dealing with a fairly heady subject. The acting is great, the energy is abundant, and its attitude and positivity is irresistable. The dancing and choreography are top-notch. I dare anyone to feel depressed after watching this. Definitely recommended.



“Hairspray” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia



July 5, 2010 - Posted by | 4.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Musical, Year - 2000-2009 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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