Hairspray (1988)

hairpsprayThough it’s true I’ve never been much of a John Waters fan, the prospect of the upcoming remake has entertained me some. Not only is the prospect of seeing John Travolta in drag a hilarious option for movie viewing, but, yes, I think it looks entertaining in spite of the serious possibility it will be completely watered down, and void of any of the civil rights commentary posed. Before that, though, I thought I’d see “Hairspray” for the first time to see what the big deal is. Like all of Waters’ films, it’s a cult classic, and one that’s an acquired taste.

Unlike the annoying “Crybaby,” this entry into the sixties nostalgia is pleasing, and pretty damn entertaining in its own right. I’m a sixties buff, and love almost anything involved in the decade, so the excellent soundtrack, matched with the surreal atmosphere worked for me, and will likely work more for me than the actual remake. “Hairspray” is also another ode to the unusual, and the weird characters, all folks who challenge the conventions of conformity, and break any limits they’re told they have. The entire movie is a testament to the overweight, and how sometimes they’re much more able to than the thin. There’s really not much I was able to cringe at with “Hairspray,” I mean John Waters basically has an immaculate production quality, set to the backdrop of the sixties that’s often accurate, along with some fantastic choreography.

Some of the dance scenes are utterly riveting, and when Tracy brushes into the large group of slim, identical, and sugary dancers, and sticks out like a sore thumb, she’s instantly accepted once she shows that she dances better than anyone. And that’s when she stops becoming a fat girl, and starts becoming a serious dancer. Ricki Lake keeps Tracy firmly in a sympathetic light and Waters gladly never pulls away from her likable personality. Even during her fame and fan base, she still sticks with her friends, and keeps her introvert friend Penny beside her.

Leslie Ann Powers is utterly charming as the jawbreaker gnawing meek mousey friend of Tracy who is exposed to a completely different world thanks to Tracy and falls for a black boy, all the while folks like Divine, Jerry Stiller, Colleen Fitzpatrick (former pop star Vitamin C, FYI) respectively provide great performances keeping the story and pacing tight and lively. “Hairspray” is probably my favorite John Waters film next to “Cecil B. Demented,” because it has a great message is endlessly entertaining, and come on you have to love Motormouth Maybelle. Probably Waters’ best film to date, “Hairspray” is a great throwback to the sixties that shows the strengths Waters is capable of. Great ensemble performances, an excellent soundtrack and consistent pace keeps this a cult classic worth discovering.