Director-John Waters

Starring-Ricki Lake, Divine

Scott’s Review #130


Reviewed July 23, 2014

Grade: B+

Hairspray (1988) is one of Director John Water’s later and much more mainstream comedies. Influencing the Broadway musical of the same name that was created years later and inspiring a successful remake in 2007, the film is a wonderful watch one late night accompanied by spirits- it is fun, fun, fun.

The film tells the story of a cute, yet insecure, overweight teenager named Tracy Turnblad, wonderfully portrayed by Rikki Lake. Tracy lives in Baltimore in the racially conflicted 1960’s, and she battles to appear on a local talent show. With Waters directing, one might expect comedic raunchiness, but Hairspray is quite tame. In fact, it is the only Waters film to be rated PG, the others rated X. Not to be outdone however, Hairspray does contain its share of light naughtiness.

The film itself, while campy and over the top, is an important film as it does its best to break down racial barriers, including interracial relationships, and sends an important message. Tracy and her best friend Penny Pingleton judge people for who they are, not on race, income, or anything else.

Those characters in Hairspray who are written as racist or less than welcoming to interracial cohabitation (again the film is set in the early 1960’s) clearly look like buffoons and not with the progressive social times. The supporting cast is high caliber- Divine and Jerry Stiller are perfectly cast as Tracy’s open minded yet cautious and concerned parents. Famous musicians appear in cameos- most notable are Debbie Harry, Ric Ocasek, and Sonny Bono in small but zesty roles.

The musical dance numbers are plentiful and perfectly fit the time period of the film. Hairspray is an entertaining, relevant, free for all with a powerful message mixed in with the entertainment.

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