'Hairspray' is an energetic, candy-coated, charming musical, that entertains from beginning to end. It is adapted from the hit 2002 Broadway musical which itself is based on the 1988 John Waters film.
The latest incarnation of the tale is directed and choreographed with admirable panache by Adam Shankman. Set in early 1960s Baltimore, the story follows cheerfully plump Tracy Turnblad (Blonsky), as she sets her sights on making it as a singer-dancer on a straight-laced TV show, and fight racial segregation along the way. Newcomer Blonsky exudes star quality and her bright enthusiasm is irresistible.
Beehived Turnblad is sent to detention for 'inappropriate hair height', but it's a blessing in disguise as she picks up some racy dance moves from the black kids, in particular Seaweed J Stubbs, played by the fantastically talented Elijah Kelley.
Her best friend Penny Pingleton, played slightly stiffly by Amanda Bynes, and Seaweed hit it off, and are faced with the prejudices of interracial relationships, especially from Penny's strict, racist mother (Janney).
Turnblad catches the eye of Corny Collins (Marsden), the sensational presenter of The Corny Collins Show, at a high school dance, who admires her daring moves and invites her onto the show.
This is much to the chagrin of the show's mean-spirited manager, Velma Von Tussle, played by a positively seething Michelle Pfeiffer, who is primped and preened to within an inch of her life. Her ideal world of Barbie and Ken cut outs smiling and leg kicking in synchronised insipidness is realised in the wholesome TV show, headed by her peroxide blonde catty daughter, Amber (Snow) and the dreamy Link Larkin (Efron).
Once a month, however, they have 'Negro Day' presided over by Motormouth Maybelle (Queen Latifah). But when this is dropped, Turnblad is motivated to do something about it and spearheads a black-white integration march.
The marvellous ensemble cast is topped off by John Travolta and Christopher Walken as Turnblad's parents. Edna, her shy and retiring mother, is played with aplomb by a cross-dressing Travolta in a sizeable fat suit, and Walken steps into the role of her kind, joke-shop owning father, Wilbur. He deadpans it to perfection in the role, but is underused considering his dazzling dancing skills. One of the highlights of the film sees light-footed Walken whisk the bountifully proportioned Travolta around the backyard singing '(You're) Timeless to Me'.
With lashings of campness, this exuberant comedy is a non-stop riot of slickly choreographed dance sequences, kitsch, pastel-infused sets and costumes, and it has a heartwarming message. It can all be a little too light at times though, even in its approach to racial segregation, but its endless optimism and unforced perkiness are sure to win you over in the end.