Extra-Strong 'Hairspray' holds up to the competition

After its long stint on Broadway, "Hairspray" returns to the silver screen in a new version of John Waters' 1988 film. While not as edgy as its predecessor the new ‘Hairspray' is a combination of Waters' film and the broadway show.

1962. Baltimore. Nikki Blonsky plays teenybopper Tracy Turnblad, who dreams of being on The Corny Collins Show (an American Bandstand-like TV program) with her idol and eternal crush, Corny Collins (James Marsden).

Along with her best friend, Penny (Amanda Bynes), Tracy rushes home from school every day to indulge in the glow of the television, much to the anguish of her morbidly obese mother, Edna (John Travolta).

The pleasantly plump Tracy dreams of being a TV star, a fantasy that is nurtured and encouraged by her father, Wilbur (Christopher Walken).

When The Corny Collins Show announces open tryouts, Tracy is first in line. When the show's producer, Velma Von Tussle (Michelle Pfeiffer), shows up to look at the potential star talent, she immediately dismisses Tracy for being too fat.

Lucky for Tracy, Corny sees the spark in her eyes and gives her a shot. She is an overnight sensation.

Feeling as if she's losing power, a vengeful Velma tries to take tighter control over the show by canceling "Negro Day," (the one day a month when African Americans can dance on the show) which causes Tracy to join a pro-integration march. Tracy soon becomes a fugitive from justice when she is falsely accused of assaulting a cop.

Newcomer Blonsky is a firecracker; she explodes on the scene during the opening number and held my attention to the end. She is surrounded by a number of familiar names and faces - Travolta, Bynes, Walken, Pfeiffer, Queen Latifah (giving a standout performance) and Marsden (better known as Cyclops from the "X-Men" series).

For those who didn't care much for Marsden in "X-Men" or "Superman Returns," his true acting abilities are on display here. I thought his casting was a bit odd, but it worked out beautifully. He shines in his performance as Corny Collins.

Then there's Travolta who can dance just as good in drag and heels as he can in a black suit and matching shoes. Let's be honest. Isn't that what everyone really wants to see? Scientologist John Travolta in drag, singing and dancing - married to Christopher Walken? I think so, America. I really do.

My only problem was with Pfeiffer, who basically plays a bitch in every movie she's in now - or a witch, in the case of the upcoming flick, "Stardust." Anyway, her singing is definitely the weakest of the cast, and I'm just tired of seeing her in this seductive (and destructive) role.

All in all, "Hairspray" is a musical I actually enjoyed - one of the few. Like fellow sing-and-dance fests "Little Shop of Horrors" and "The Producers," "Hairspray" is filled with campy, over-the-top fun and entertaining musical numbers. It's fun, kitschy and doesn't try to be anything other than a good time at the movies.

In a summer filled with super heroes, pirates, wizards and gigantic robots, "Hairspray" is a welcome option to those looking for a break from the adrenaline-pumping, CGI-laden action currently occupying the box office.
Reviewed by: adam