I got to see Hairspray last night, and it is just one big finger-lickin' bucket of fun. John Travolta is that wierd packet of squeeze butter on the side that comes with it, but you can ignore and not use while not having it effect the overall excellence of the the fried chicken, mashed potatoes, cole slaw and biscuit. The stage play was a blast, too, so it's no surprise the movie is as well. Though some of the songs were cut, and some characters cut down in the process, the story moves along and is as fun as it ever was. Nikki Blonsky is adorable and a complete find. Amanda Bynes is funny and totally gets Penny. I liked Queen Latifah (though I still miss Ruth Brown's voice and manner-but who doesn't?), who is having a great time as well, and Elijah Kelly, who plays Seaweed, is a revelation. Michele Pfeiffer is having a blast and is great, as is Christopher Walken. Zac Ephron is all cuteness and plays with it, as is James Marsden, who came as a complete surprise to me--probably the "who knew?" performance of the film. And the kids are all great. It's not as broad as the play or the first movie, but it has enough winks to keep you going, and everyone's on the same page. They even pulled off the civil rights moment (for me--though not for a couple of others we talked to after the film). I miss the jail sequence, but the rest is still there.
That leaves Travolta, who isn't necessarily bad, just strange. For some reason, he's the only person in the movie doing a Baltimore accent, and it doesn't work. In fact, at times it gets in the way of the jokes. He seems to be enjoying himself, and that's perhaps the problem. I kept wishing for the warmth of Harvey Fierstein, who disappeared into the role in the first five minutes of the play and seemed to envelop the whole production with his warmth--it's one of the big "might have beens" of the last few years. Oh well. Shankman manages to work around it well--I just wish that he wasn't so aware of himself and playing at it in his performance. It felt like he was going "Look at me! I'm in drag! I love this!"
Still--the movie was a lot of fun and I'll probably go again, just to see the opening sequence. Loved it! Bucket of fun!